Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Trip Despise-Her: SNATCHED

Snatched is one of those disappointing high-concept, mid-budget, star-driven Hollywood pictures that seems to come around every so often. It has the right cast, a fun premise, and a few funny moments, but otherwise just sits there on screen collecting dust. The basic fish-out-of-water adventure comedy plotting finds a dopey daughter (Amy Schumer) and dotty mother (the great Goldie Hawn in her first role in fifteen years—sadly she should’ve waited longer) on a South American vacation. They inevitably get kidnapped and must cease their squabbling long enough to survive and maybe, just maybe, learn a little about themselves along the way. On this sturdy, predictable structure director Jonathan Levine (The Night Before) and screenwriter Kate Dippold (The Heat) pile flat, simple, one-note scenes. This is a movie that only can hold one idea, and often only one person, in a frame, plodding simply without escalation from plot point to plot point, allowing its performers just enough personality to fill out just barely more than a trailer’s worth of entertainment.
Cut together with journeyman boredom in every choice – a tourism brochure montage of establishing shots, a slow-mo dance sequence or two, vistas of B-roll you’d find on a hotel lobby TV – the whole endeavor could only succeed with diminished expectations. It’s too thin and grindingly workmanlike in its impersonal bare-bones competence, flatly staged and unimaginatively developed. Comedy and action work best with surprise: an unexpected swerve, a shock reveal, an eccentric resolution. Here we get a smattering of these moments. In an opening scene, Schumer’s boyfriend (Randall Park) says he’s breaking up with her and she responds, “When?” Later a grizzled jungle guide (Christopher Meloni) is asked if a piece of fruit is okay. “Yeah, sure,” he replies, then takes a beat and adds, “Oh! You mean to eat? Probably not.” Funny. So too are Wanda Sykes and Joan Cusack as vacationing gal pals intensely interested in looking out for their fellow foreign ladies because you simply never can trust a foreign vacation. (There’s unexamined Ugly Americanism here, natch.) But we’re talking silly little grace notes on the edges of a leaden comedy, flat-footed and tone-deaf, in which two American women get kidnapped and flail around Latin American stereotypes for 80 minutes. 

Why take Hawn, capable of effervescently charming performances, and make her a dowdy scold? Why take Schumer who, at her best, can lampoon awkward social issues in casually biting satire, and make her a routine R-rated comedy-style stunted adult-child? They’re allowed to play against type to fit the dragging constraints of a hectic and unfunny action plot that’s so narrative heavy it rarely pauses to let its leads breathe. Their best moments allow the two of them space for banter that feels like a real testy mother-daughter relationship, one with some history and tension that could flower with room to grow. Instead they’re shoved into tumbles down muddy jungle roads and made to slog through tone-deaf humor. When they arrive at a distant village, it’s a cue for smug eye-rolling and flailing gross-out humor at the expense of the native’s customs and well-meaning doctors, culminating in a sequence involving a tapeworm that’s just flat out nasty. The movie just doesn’t have a point of view, has no idea how to maximize the inherent charms of its cast or activate any sense of tension or suspense in its premise. The emptiness just makes it seem limp and sad, so much running around and yelling and frantic flailing for naught.

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