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Movie Review: 'Snatched' Is Funnier When It's About Nothing

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I guess we should be thankful to Hollywood for figuring out that women can enjoy R-rated comedies, too. Without its bracing moments of rudeness, lewdness and randomness, Snatched would be an unredeemable bore. And, yes, that is damning it with faint praise.

It's easy to imagine the less racy version of this Mother's Day weekend release that might have been made 10 years ago, perhaps with Katherine Heigl playing the feckless grown daughter who somehow ends up sharing a tropical vacation with her uptight mom. Kidnapped and held for ransom by generic Colombian baddies, the sparring twosome must learn mutual respect if they want to survive. Cue slapstick action scenes and a "female empowerment" playlist on the soundtrack.

All of that happens in Snatched, but without the earnestness. The movie takes a haphazard, WTF approach to its premise that makes it sometimes entertaining and sometimes just a mess. Protagonist Emily Middleton (Amy Schumer) and her mom, Linda (Goldie Hawn), never feel much like mother and daughter. They're opposites, yes, but there's no sense of shared family history or long-simmering conflicts, and no indication of how well-meaning, soppy Linda inadvertently raised Emily to be the monstrous narcissist she is from her very first scene.

Rather than delving into the bonding theme, director Jonathan Levine (50/50) and screenwriter Katie Dippold (The Heat) use it as a pretext to let outsize characters loose to snipe at each other. Snipe they do — and, for a while, it's halfway fun.

The film's first third is a showcase for Schumer, with a talky, semi-improvised feel. Hawn plays likable straight man as Emily drags her mom along on the vacation she booked for herself and her now-AWOL boyfriend, exhibiting casual disregard for Linda's feelings and generally acting like a foul-mouthed, hedonistic, effortlessly destructive pixie.

She's terrible — and, as Linda discovers, her terribleness isn't bad company. Emily's destructiveness comes in handy, too, when the women venture outside the resort and must escape their kidnappers with the help of conveniently placed deadly weapons.

As the abduction plot grinds into gear, the script increasingly plays like something produced by 10 Mountain Dew-addled tweens locked in a room. On their way to the safety of Bogotá, Linda and Emily experience a series of misadventures, each more absurd and pointless than the last. The nadir is an episode with a giant CG tapeworm that turns out to be the prelude to Emily's long-delayed, ridiculously rapid redemption.

As it goes off the rails, Snatched manages to snatch opportunistic laughs from its supporting characters, who are funniest when they're not interacting with Linda and Emily. As a tourist couple claiming to wield extreme survival skills, Joan Cusack and Wanda Sykes periodically steal the show with physical comedy. Ike Barinholtz and Bashir Salahuddin have an equally amusing verbal interplay as, respectively, Emily's nerdy brother and the State Department employee he attempts to enlist to save his family.

But the movie just can't get past its lack of commitment to its own tired themes. Comedies like Bridesmaids and Spy manage to combine antic, absurdist action with semi-coherent character arcs and believable human moments. The makers of Snatched appear to have taken more of a "throw outrageousness at the audience and see if it sticks" approach.

Mostly, it doesn't. If there's one impression that viewers of future generations might take away from this movie, it's that the baby boomers endured their offspring with a befuddled patience of Herculean proportions.

The original print version of this article was headlined "Snatched"

Related Film

Snatched

Official Site: www.foxmovies.com/movies/snatched

Director: Jonathan Levine

Writer: Katie Dippold

Producer: Peter Chernin, Jenno Topping, Paul Feig and Jessie Henderson

Cast: Amy Schumer, Goldie Hawn, Joan Cusack, Ike Barinholtz, Wanda Sykes and Christopher Meloni

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