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First run Theater cinema

Snatched is the latest cinematic atrocity from the Paul Feig academy of movies. These lazy, formulaic, unfunny comedies supposedly showcase gifted female comics by trotting them through plots in which a great deal of the humor centers around degrading the very women these films are supposed to empower. Two basic stereotypes haunt these pictures: the slovenly, self-centered, fat girl—the Melissa McCarthy type—and the uptight, neurotic, or naive stick-in-the-mud—the Kirsten Wiig type.  (I can’t understand how that gifted comedian ended up with a “straight-man” movie persona, but thanks to Feig and others, she has.)

In this outing, Amy Schumer is the slob, a thirtysomething adolescent hot mess named Emily Middleton, and Goldie Hawn plays the snob, Emily’s single, casually racist, cat-fancying mother—who might have a name other than Mom or Ma-MA, but I didn’t catch it. When Emily gets fired from her job, dumped by her boyfriend, and all the other requirements for the protagonist at the beginning of in this type of movie ever since Stripes, she decides to invite her housebound mom on the South American vacation she had originally planned to take with her boyfriend. Why take her mom along? Because Emily is a needy loser who has no friends. 

The women in these movies are always depicted as either irresponsible party animals or lonely sad sacks. Perhaps screenwriters and studios think theses tropes makes them more relateable or less threatening to male viewers. Or is the idea that audiences of all genders will feel superior in the face of flawed characters living in worse predicaments than our own? Whatever the reason, the only time that the leads in a female-driven Paul Feig comedy possessed any real dimension or positive attributes was in The Heat (2013), which was written by Snatched screenwriter Katie Dippold (who also penned Feig’s last two directorial efforts, the lame Ghostbusters remake and the unwatchable Spy).

In The Heat the two cookie-cutter lead roles had additional aspects to their personas beyond the out-of-control bum and the neurotic nag. McCarthy and Sandra Bullock’s characters possessed personalities and skills that made them good at their jobs and dynamic in their interactions.  The fun came from watching how they played off each other. And we got to see how their specific combination of talents helped them succeed in their goals—which is the basic requirement for a good buddy movie. 

In Snatched, Schumer and Hawn have neither individual depth of character nor any chemistry together. For folks excited to see Goldie Hawn in a comedy after a fifteen-year absence from movie screens, prepare for a major disappointment. The gifted comedian gets no punch lines, no involvement in funny situations, and only one opportunity for physical comedy. The supporting players like Joan Cusack provide the few minimal laughs in this cringe-worthy picture, ineptly directed by Jonathan Levine (50/50, Warm Bodies, The Night Before). I’ve asked this question before, but how long do we have to wait before women get to direct women-centered mainstream comedies?

Twitter Capsule:

When do we get to see female-driven mainstream movies where women are depicted as more than either drunken slobs or neurotic nags?    

Directed by Jonathan Levine
Produced by Paul Feig, Peter Chernin, Jenno Topping, and Jessie Henderson

Written by Katie Dippold

With: Amy Schumer, Goldie Hawn, Ike Barinholtz, Joan Cusack, Wanda Sykes, Christopher Meloni, Óscar Jaenada, and Randall Park

Cinematography: Florian Ballhaus
Editing: Zene Baker and Mellissa Bretherton
Music: Theodore Shapiro and Chris Bacon

Runtime: 90 min
Release Date: 12 May 2017
Aspect Ratio: 2.35 : 1