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Movie Review: SNATCHED (2017)

Article by: An Amy Schumer Apologist (Josh Bradley)


In my limited experience (limited because I’m consistently uncool), I’ve found it’s usually gratifying when you’re an early adopter of something before it gets big. When you’re a champion of something small, when you’re constantly recommending it to your friends, when you build inside jokes with those few friends who take up your recommendation, you feel savvy when suddenly everyone is in on the joke, like you’re a taste-maker or something (tip: you’re probably not).

But sometimes, that small thing that you were such an avid fan of (because it felt like that small thing needed avid fans) takes off. And it takes off and takes off and takes off, and then that once-small thing comes out the other side and gets too big, to the point of backlash. Now, instead of basking in the satisfaction of being intimately familiar with a much-talked about subject, and suddenly being able to discuss something you like with literally anyone (not just the select few early adopters), you find yourself on the defense. Instead of being an early adopter or a taste-maker, you find yourself defending something that a lot of people now hate. And just like that, you’re uncool again.

So, yes. I’m an Amy Schumer fan and have been since I heard snippets from her first (and, at the time, only) stand-up album and found clips from the first (and, at the time, only) season of her sketch show. It should be obvious why I feel the need to offer this context. Read the YouTube comments on the trailer for Snatched. Look at the like/dislike ratio. Note the alarming discrepancy between the “generally favorable” critics’ reviews and the “overwhelming dislike” from users for her latest Netflix special (which struck me as too harmless to be hateable). Lurk around any reddit thread or comment section about her or one of her projects.

You can draw a lot of conclusions from this vitriol, spanning the vast spectrum between “Amy Schumer sucks” to “Amy Schumer is the victim of targeted misogyny”, but one conclusion is inevitable: any discussion of Amy Schumer’s work becomes a discussion of Amy Schumer herself.

And because a lot of people clearly don’t like Amy Schumer herself, I imagine a fair amount of people have already decided beforehand that they won’t like Snatched. Fair enough, I guess. I would point out to these predisposed people that Amy Schumer doesn’t have a writing credit on this movie (unlike Trainwreck (2015), which earned her a WGA Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay), but given that it was instead written by Katie Dippold, scribe of Ghostbusters (2016) – another seemingly harmless yet inexplicably inflammatory bit of zeitgeist – I doubt that tidbit would do much to assuage that particular demographic.

As for the movie itself (God, talk about burying the lede), it’s… pretty good. It’s not what Steve Martin would call “undeniably good”, where even Schumer-haters will be wowed by its charms (granted, that’s a pretty high bar), but for a huge fan of her sketch show, a huge fan of Trainwreck (2015), and only an occasional fan of her stand-up, Snatched is good enough. For the most part.

After being unceremoniously fired and then immediately dumped, Emily Middleton (Schumer) finds herself without a travel companion for her upcoming nonrefundable South American vacation that she couldn’t afford in the first place. Reluctantly seeking comfort from her widowed and reclusive mother, Linda (Goldie Hawn, in her first film role in fifteen years), Emily decides to invite her mom along on the trip – after being turned down by all of her friends and exhausting every other possibility.

They’re predictably at each other’s throats for their first couple of days in Ecuador, as they have the stock overly-cautious-parent vs aimless-immature-grown-child relationship so commonly seen in movies (and real life, as Dippold based the script loosely on her own relationship with her mother). But after Colombian kidnappers see an easy target for a ransom payday in the pair of clueless tourists, Emily and Linda must set aside their differences and work out their long-standing feud in order to escape to the US Embassy in Bogota.

When Dippold was first developing the script – and even during production – the movie had the working title Mother/Daughter until Schumer announced the official title just six months ago. While the original title may be more generic and doesn’t have the benefit of the anatomical pun, it feels more appropriate for what the movie is. The eponymous snatching doesn’t take place until 34 minutes in, and this in a movie that runs south of 90 minutes (to say nothing of the fact that they escape their kidnappers within five minutes and spend the rest of the runtime on the run rather than held captive). The focus is instead on the relationship between the mother and daughter; the kidnapping and outrageous antics that follow (and they are outrageous) are merely the conduit to tell the story of their relationship woes.

This gives the movie a bit of a meandering structure, with an episodic “and then this happens” feel to the proceedings, but it also lends itself to discrete sketch-like bits, including a Ben Meloni cameo as a would-be guide through the Amazon, an incident with a tapeworm, and a hilariously unhelpful embassy employee. And as predictable as the relationship beats can be (Hawn’s Linda has forgotten how to live, Schumer’s Emily needs to learn how to live, yadda yadda yadda), the plot lends itself to a spontaneity that otherwise keeps the audience on its toes.

Most art is subjective to some degree, but comedy in particular is a bit difficult to review in any objective sense; often, you either find it funny or you don’t. In the case of a movie like Snatched, where most of its appeal is built around putting familiar characters into ostentatious situations to get a laugh, this translates to “you either like the movie or you don’t” (as opposed to comedies like, say, Everybody Wants Some!!, where I scarcely laughed out loud but still thoroughly enjoyed the movie as much as any gut-busting comedy I saw last year).

Personally, I think it fits comfortably into the “I’ll put this on if it’s playing on cable on a Saturday afternoon” category of comedies. While I didn’t find it nearly as funny as Trainwreck or (much of) Inside Amy Schumer,  Snatched passed the Six Laugh Test (the threshold for assessing a comedy film, per BBC Radio film critic Mark Kermode), so I enjoyed it. For you, maybe it won’t, so you won’t. However, if you enjoy the Seth Rogen-type comedies of the late 2000s, with lots of lovably immature man-children and dick jokes, but find yourself railing against an Amy Schumer-led comedy with a lovably immature woman-child and vagina jokes, ask yourself why.

If you want to accuse Amy Schumer of joke stealing, consider that many professional comedians think that accusation is bull shit, the comedian who levied that initial accusation has since apologized for it and admitted she “went too far”, and so-called “parallel thinking” and “joke stealing” are a bit more gray than people realize (alternatively, explain to me why no one’s written a think piece about Jim Gaffigan ripping off a 10-year-old Dane Cook bit).

If you want to demonize Schumer for comments she’s made about Donald Trump, then consider why she would get demonized while Stephen Colbert’s nightly antagonizing of the president has catapulted him to the top of the ratings for the first time since taking over for David Letterman.

If you want to somehow accuse Schumer of rape (as many corners of the internet are wont to do), consider the nature of consent and how absurd such an accusation is in context (and how much doublethink is required to make such an accusation).

If you want a few good laughs, consider seeing Snatched.

Josh Bradley
Josh Bradley is a rocket scientist and screenwriter living in Los Angeles. He spends most of his time in traffic on the 405.