Friday, May 12, 2017

Snatched: Send it back

Snatched (2017) • View trailer 
Two stars. Rated R, for profanity, crude humor and fleeting nudity

By Derrick Bang

It’s pretty sad when the star of a film is overwhelmed and out-funnied by her co-stars, and that’s definitely the case with Snatched.

On the run and lost in the Amazonian jungle, with a vengeful kidnapper on their trail,
Emily (Amy Schumer, left) and her mother Linda (Goldie Hawn) haven't the faintest idea
what to do next. Neither do this tawdry flick's director or writer.
Amy Schumer is by far the weakest link. Goldie Hawn, as her mother Linda, is funnier. Bashir Salahuddin, as a desk-bound U.S. State Department clerk, is much funnier. Joan Cusack, as a retired special ops agent, darn near steals the show ... and she doesn’t speak a word.

Mind you, Hawn, Salahuddin, Cusack and a few others are tiny bits of spice in very thin gruel. It’s hard to believe that Katie Dippold got paid for this miserable excuse for a script, particularly since it sounds like Schumer ad-libbed all of her dialog (scarcely an improvement). But, then, Dippold’s previous big-screen solo credit was 2013’s execrable The Heat, so clearly we shouldn’t have expected better.

Dippold seems to have become the go-to scripter for today’s two hottest foul-mouthed female comics, which makes sense; in terms of their big-screen personas, Schumer is basically a smuttier version of Melissa McCarthy (which is saying quite a lot). Schumer hasn’t yet met a situation that she couldn’t debase with a vulgar reference to sexual or bodily functions, and hey: If crude, tasteless potty humor is your cup of tea, you’re bound to have a good time with this flick.

Not that it features much else that could be considered entertainment value.

Schumer stars as Emily Middleton, a useless semi-adult introduced as she’s dumped by her musician boyfriend. Concerned less about her derailed love life and more about her two non-refundable tickets to an Ecuadorian tourist trap, Emily rattles unsuccessfully through her meager list of friends, and finally — as sloppy sixths or sevenths — persuades her mother to come along.

Such a trip is far outside Linda’s comfort zone, she being the type of stay-at-home, overly protective single mother whose idea of excitement is a pottery class. But Emily prevails, and the two unattached gals are off to paradise.

Which seems the case, at first blush, when Emily is picked up by the handsome and breezily suave James (Tom Bateman). They enjoy a swooningly romantic first date, despite warnings from savvier fellow vacationers Ruth (Wanda Sykes) and Barb (Cusack), who insist that suspiciously hunky guys aren’t to be trusted.

Nonsense, Emily scoffs, particularly after James offers to take her and Linda on a road trip to “explore the local culture.” Before the latter has a chance to say “I told you so,” they’re kidnapped by a thoroughly nasty fellow named Morgado (Oscar Jaenada), who intends to ransom them for $100,000.

At which point, director Jonathan Levine loses whatever minor control he had of the film.

Jaenada doesn’t play Morgado for laughs; he’s a genuinely dangerous thug who tosses Emily and Linda into a grotty, scorpion-laden cell. This abrupt shift in tone seriously damages subsequent efforts at larkish humor; as a result — we’re about halfway through the 90-minute film, at this point — all the rest of Schumer’s earthy one-liners fall flatter than her under-supported cleavage.

The truly funny bits come elsewhere, notably when Emily’s agoraphobic brother Jeffrey (Ike Barinholtz) — apprised of the situation when Morgado calls with the ransom demand — tries to get help from the U.S. State Department, and winds up with the hilariously unconcerned Morgan (Salahuddin).

Barinholtz isn’t the slightest bit amusing; like Schumer, he tries too hard and delivers too little. They should take lessons from Salahuddin, who underplays all his scenes with straight-faced, by-the-book blandness, which makes Morgan the funniest take on unaccommodating civil servants since the DMV sloth in last year’s Zootopia.

Emily and Linda, meanwhile, manage an improbable escape; this allows a panicked phone call to Ruth and Barb, who promise an unlikely rescue. Emily and Linda subsequently fall in and out of Morgado’s clutches, allowing for a detour while they place their faith in Roger (Christopher Meloni), an amateur explorer who vows to guide them safely through the Amazonian jungle. (Filming actually took place in the “jungles” of Oahu.)

Meloni’s presence is oddly superfluous, his character never really coming to life; he just sorta vamps for time, for about 10 minutes. That’s in keeping with much of this film, which is filled with a lot of dead weight ... a pretty damning statement, when it’s so short to begin with.

As often is the case with movies that feature comics-turned-film stars — particularly when such projects are helmed by weak-willed directors — a static camera frequently holds far too long, while Schumer flails, flusters and fumbles her way through a line that she obviously thinks is a laugh riot. Then everything pauses, as if to allow spasms of side-splitting audience laughter; the only contrived element missing is a rim shot from Chris Bacon and Theodore Shapiro’s lackluster score.

More than anything else, films such as Snatched are sad: a sad waste of (some) talent, and a sad waste of time (mostly ours). This one’s unheralded arrival — post-Guardians 2, but definitely pre-summer — suggests that 20th Century Fox also didn’t have much faith.

Which is a rare display of common sense from corporate Hollywood.

No comments:

Post a Comment