Our incessantly electrified media culture is always at the ready to zap culture lightning rods like Amy Schumer (or Lena Dunham or Dave Chappelle or Louis C.K.). We alternately elevate them and exalt them, then pummel them with bolts as soon as too much success leaves them without storm shelter. And because of that, there may be nothing more frustrating within that culture than to say that Snatched is fine.
You could almost hear the blogosphere collectively flexing and cracking its fingers in preparation for hot takes to fly as the goofy trailers for Snatched, the R-rated mother-daughter comedy starring Schumer and Goldie Hawn, achieved omnipresent status in recent weeks…and weren’t especially funny.
What you definitely could hear, however, was high-pitched surprise as writers chatted following the film’s New York press screening this week: “That was actually pretty good!” “I liked it more than I thought I would!” “You know what? It was entertaining.”
It’s not the sexiest, splashiest review of a film.
And it’s certainly not what was expected from a conversation about a film starring Amy Schumer—whose projects typically provide enough kindling for a thinkpiece inferno—and Goldie Hawn, who is starring in her first film in 15 years, since 2002’s The Banger Sisters.
Is Snatched as good as Trainwreck, or Bridesmaids, or Spy, or even Neighbors or 21 Jump Street, all included in the recent revival of broadly appealing R-rated comedies that moved the ball forward in terms of the interplay of raunch and humanity in humor—not to mention, in some cases, the dynamism of women in film? Well…no.
But is it bad? Or unfunny? Certainly not.
It’s hard to write about a movie that you liked, but didn’t love or loathe.
The temptation with a movie like Snatched is to call it a perfect airplane movie, or joke about how you’ll watch it on a Sunday afternoon a year from now on TBS. But that does a disservice to things Snatched does well. (And, sure, also to the things it doesn’t.)
As she has on Inside Amy Schumer, Trainwreck, and especially in her stand-up comedy, Schumer is an expert at not just sending up the self-absorbed white girl, but finding a way to deepen the characterization beyond the comedy trope—in other words, to sustain more than just a comedy sketch, but an entire movie.
(Snatched is a blissful 97 minutes, by the way—perfectly breezy in the age of laborious running times.)
In Snatched, she is Emily Middleton, whom we meet at the retail store where she works, mid-monologue, going on about a trip to Colombia she is planning with her boyfriend and leaving little room for the girl she is talking at to get a word in edge-wise—which in this case is, “So do you have this in my size?”
This narcissism shows in all the ways you groan about—Emily is constantly taking selfies—but, particularly when Emily is being dumped by her boyfriend right before the trip, Schumer’s performance belies a tragic desperation: she creates the illusion that things are perfect when, really, they’re crumbling all around her.
Schumer is great at projecting confidence that presents itself as painfully awkward, but also at underwriting all her comedy bits—even the tired selfie ones—with insecurity.
This sort of rock-bottom moment—the breakup scene, over brunch with Randall Park as Emily’s boyfriend, is particularly funny—sets off the plot. Unable to convince any of her girlfriends, who are raising babies and getting married, to take her boyfriend’s spot on the non-refundable trip, she convinces her mother, Hawn’s Linda, to join her.
Maybe the smartest thing Snatched does is have Schumer play directly to type while Hawn, in her big comeback, plays absolutely against it.
Linda Middleton isn’t the daffy, glamorously klutzy Goldie Hawn. She’s a cat lady who Googles articles about how to cheer up depressed cats instead of completing her Match.com profile. She’s of the generation that doesn’t quite know how Facebook works, but is constantly on Facebook. She’s a recluse, a pragmatic, and doesn’t even realize that she’s extinguished all remnants of her once-adventurous spirit.
“Everybody knows you need two years to plan a vacation,” is her knee-jerk reaction to Emily’s pitch for her to come to Colombia.
The rest of the film’s plot you can pretty much parse out from the film’s title and your muscle memory of all movies ever.
Yes, they are kidnapped when Emily is too trusting of a suave Colombian stranger, against Linda’s warnings not to be. And yes, would you believe that both women learn about themselves and each other through how they deal with the crisis?
These scenes, which we’ve all seen so many times—the realization that you’ve been underestimating a loved one, brought on by a crisis—are rather hokey, as they should be. Because that’s kind of what the film is.
The film is exactly what you expect, which is not a rave or a pan but just a truth: Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn are a mom and daughter who get kidnapped in South America. Hijinks ensue, many of which are funny. Some are not.
There are good scene-stealing turns from Ike Barinholtz, Christopher Meloni, Arturo Castro, Wanda Sykes, Joan Cusack, and the aforementioned Park.
Perhaps the film’s underwhelming trailer is owed to the fact that funniest moments come in R-rated form, including a solid whale cum joke, a rogue boob, and a bit involving a tapeworm we won’t spoil here. And perhaps the hurdle keeping Snatched from being great and not merely fine is the fact that its emotional elements ring so hollow.
This is where Trainwreck was most effective—rooting the Schumer-esque humor in affecting, relatable emotion—but where Snatched is at its weakest. Part of that, of course, is because Snatched is not Trainwreck, which might be the most damning thing some prospective ticket buyers might read.
Trainwreck was guided by the hand of Judd Apatow, whose films tend to have a more grounded heartbeat than the heightened histrionics that make up the more cartoonish Snatched. (Melissa McCarthy’s The Boss and The Heat, both also written by Snatched writer Katie Dippold, are more akin to Snatched in tone.)
But while Trainwreck announced Schumer as a Hollywood star and, more importantly, as a voice and perspective to pay attention to, Snatchedconfirms her as a brand. This is a broadly appealing entry in what we expect will soon become a genre: the “Amy Schumer Movie.” And if that’s the case, then we should be pleased.
Not every film needs to be transgressive, or even make a point. More, not every film is going to be relentlessly funny—which Snatched most definitely is not. But a film should deliver on expectations, and what Snatched does as Schumer’s second big Hollywood film is plainly lay them out.
It’s no wonder the ever-classy Goldie Hawn came out of pseudo-retirement to co-star in it, then happily cede the spotlight to a woman who is essentially being defined by the film. Hollywood is, after all, a commoditizing industry.
My prediction is that the reviews for Snatched will be more negative than they deserve to be. (And I will be shocked if they are more positive.)
As mentioned earlier, Schumer and her output kind of exists on a metal roof in the middle of a thunderstorm. The despicable weather pattern is too predictable at this point: a bold new female voice in entertainment is championed, then considered problematic, then the subject of backlash, and then left to be either be vindicated or taken further down.
It’s a misogynistic fate, and it’s unlikely that Snatched will do either for Schumer, who is, as is often the case, both a media target and more popular than ever.
Snatched is fine. You’ll like it plenty enough. It has Goldie Hawn in it and, again, a great joke about whale semen. But our storm-chasing culture will certainly need more than that to talk about.