GUEST CRITIC #23: Snatched



As busy I get from time to time, I find that I can't see every movie under the sun, leaving my friends and colleagues to fill in the blanks for me.  As poetically as I think I wax about movies on this website as a wannabe critic, there are other experts out there.  Sometimes, it inspires me to see the movie too and get back to being my circle's go-to movie guy.  Sometimes, they save me $9 and you 800+ words of blathering.  In a new review series, I'm opening my site to friend submissions for guest movie reviews.



For his debut appearance on Every Movie Has a Lesson, please welcome Steve Pulaski, a fellow member of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle.  This young man has been a film critic since 2009, self-taught and reviewing films throughout his academic career.  Steve Pulaski currently writes for his personal forum, The Steve Pulaski Message Board, as well as Influx Magazine, where he serves as the lead film critic of the website.  The guy cranks out 300 reviews a year, which is an insane pace and triple what I do over here in the same amount of time.

He extends his film review work and entertainment over his YouTube channel, packed with over 1,300 subscribers strong.  Currently in college in the suburbs of Chicago, Steve also hosts several shows on WONC 89.1 FM and remains an active blogger and songwriter, with several singles and mixtapes available for download.  As he says it, this man is married to the movies.  Frankly, he is the youngest renaissance man you're going to meet!  


The opening ten minutes of "Snatched" are choreographed and written so similarly to Amy Schumer's previous film "Trainwreck" that you'd swear you're watching a remake of that film several years too early. Schumer and Judd Apatow's collaborative film brought together a "movie ad-libs" of names, such as Bill Hader and LeBron James, and was mostly effective in establishing Schumer as a modest comic talent and a brand in and of herself. 

"Snatched" proves, however, that those who were quick to bill Schumer as the "queen of comedy" were nothing more than reactionary gun-jumpers, as this film fails to assert her as anything other than what she is at her most basic - obnoxious, rowdy, and infrequently amusing.

But don't place the lion's weight of the blame on her in regards to the mediocrity of "Snatched." It is a rather obnoxious, rowdy, and infrequently amusing film, unevenly crossbreeding mother-daughter bonding with ugly, violent circumstances that happen within the blink of an eye. The film racks up a body-count akin to a "Taken" movie, despite being a half-hearted parody of that franchise, and screenwriter Kate Dippold ("The Heat," "Ghostbusters") can't make her screenplay reach any kind of sincerity when, at any given moment, a character's Adam's apple is getting impaled by an accidentally detonated spear.

The film revolves around Emily (Schumer), who has recently lost her job, her boyfriend, and has resorted to bingedrinking - her catharsis - in the wake of her upcoming trip to Ecuador, which she was supposed to take with her man. After moping around a bit, she visits her mother Linda (Goldie Hawn), a divorced and sheltered woman living with her man-child of a son Jeffrey (Ike Barinholtz) and a slew of cats. Out of pure desperation, Emily coerces her mother to come to Ecuador with her as a way of bonding, which she begrudgingly accepts. The two spend their first night rather quietly, until Emily meets James (Tom Bateman), a handsome and gentlemanly man who takes her drinking and dancing for the evening.

The two plan to go on a day-trip with Emily's mother the next day, but not long into the trip, James takes them well off the main-road so his kidnapping plot can take effect. Emily and Linda are abducted and kept in a grimy dungeon in Columbia, until they escape and gradually work to get to a more densely populated city in order for the State Department to rescue them. Jeffrey proves to be of little help, continuing to call and harass the listless State Department requesting the intelligence and operations of a makeshift "A-Team" to return his mother and sister to safety.

Moreover, it's great to have Goldie Hawn back, even if it makes you question what the acting veteran could've possibly seen in the screenplay of the film's potential to make a return to film for the first time in fifteen years. Hawn chalks up more laughs than Schumer, probably because she's been MIA since 2002's "The Banger Sisters," but also because there's nothing quite like a testy, nervous Hawn hiding her anxiousness upon being kidnapped by reading Hustler magazine as if it's "Home & Garden." In a film that's rocky and unevenly funny from the start, moments like this need be cherished. 

The big problem with "Snatched," as stated, is its tonal inconsistency, which mistakes the meshing of examining the broken relationship of a polar-opposite mother-daughter combo with gratuitously violent moments and an entirely shallow kidnapping plot. Why are Emily and Linda kidnapped? For sex-slavery, slavery in general (at one point, we see a village where women are the dominant workers and providers in the community), or just for extortion purposes? Dippold's screenplay never suits up to tackle anything beyond the superfluous and the vulgar.

Schumer is the epitome of fine here, not as tested in charisma or in convictions as she was in "Trainwreck," which is a shame. She's an actress who, in her film projects, needs to be written with more complexity, otherwise, she's an endless pitfall of redundant sexual banter and loose-lipped comments about her vagina and semen. It's not off-putting as much as it inches ever so close to being effectively witless, to the point where I found myself appreciating Melissa McCarthy - someone I've been fairly critical of - and her versatility for the sake that she's one to test herself. 

Schumer, as of now, sticks to the low-hanging fruit and makes a joke about how the fruit looks like a scrotum.

Moments of casual humor - when they're not interrupted by a thoroughly insufferable Barinholtz and his character's persistent love and loyalty to his "ma-mah" - do arise throughout the course of 'Snatched," and the film, unlike "Trainwreck," is wisely kept well under two hours where most writers probably would've tried to push the 120 minute barrier. It's undoubtedly difficult for films to succeed on the premise of inviting in belly-laughs while interjecting moderately bloody violence, but when you're doing that, you should at least have a screenplay that can handle both with talent and prowess on both a comedy and action level, and how quickly "Snatched" winds up getting stuck in neutral is almost unfortunate.




Thank you, Steve!  Come back anytime, your work is always welcome.  Let's keep this going.  Friends, if you see a movie that I don't see and want to be featured on my website (and get a fun fake biography written about you), hit up my website's Facebook page and you can be my next GUEST CRITIC!