In terms of story, there’s nothing the least bit surprising about Snatched, the mother-daughter-get-kidnapped comedy starring Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn. Rather, the film saves its creativity for its Comedy of Embarrassment, as well as a few moments of Looney Tunes antics. It’s all briskly paced and well-played by the leads, who make for a fun pair: Hawn’s worry-wart “I told you so” mom gamely suffers Schumer’s flaky, self-absorbed character as both engage in a series of outrageous escapes and escapades.
Much of the off-kilter humor springs forth from Schumer’s Emily, the juvenile grown-up who’s having a rough time of it. Within the movie’s opening minutes, she’s lost her job and boyfriend (Randall Park)—not that either was much of a prize worth holding onto. Emily is the caricature of a millennial, the type who can’t understand why people would do fun things and not share them on Instagram. In contrast to her wild abandon, mom Linda (Hawn) is the play-it-safe type. There’s a wistfulness to an early scene in Snatched as she putters around her quaint two-story home: starting the draft of her profile on a personals site; checking the door locks to make sure she’s tucked in safe; calling the kitties upstairs to bed. Hawn imbues these moments with warmth, making hers a welcome sympathetic character.
When Emily finds a photo album of her mother having fun as a young adult, she’s inspired to hector mom into being her plus-one on a vacay in Ecuador—one meant for Emily and her now ex-boyfriend. All Linda can see is the danger of being strangers in a strange land, while Emily wants to let loose, forget her troubles and get four-star treatment at a luxury hotel.
For a while, their trip unfolds as each envisioned. Linda sticks to the room or the outdoor pool where she can relax and read, while Emily embarks on a personal romantic adventure when she meets a handsome stranger at one of the hotel bars. That meeting turns into a day trip that begets the film’s title, as the women are kidnapped and held for a $100K ransom. From this point, the pair must fight off their captors and trek through the jungle to find safety, while hoping for a rescue that might not come.
Shot in Hawaii, Snatched offers a lush, exotic setting where Linda and Emily can be fish out of water—no transportation, unable to speak the language and ill-equipped for the level-headed decision-making needed to get through their peril. So it’s a bit of a shame that Snatched doesn’t do much of anything with regard to their travel through the jungle. Instead of following them along their journey, the film switches to ancillary characters and then returns to find them further along. Why set a film in the forbidding rain forest when you don’t care about mining that setting for laughs and adventure?
The strong supporting cast is a big asset in a film that seems to be feeling its way in the dark for an ending. The men are mostly amusing goofs and over-the-top bad guys: kidnappers, liars and one endearing adventurer wannabe (Christopher Meloni) who should have had more screen time before his memorable exit. Bashir Salahuddin shines in a small role as a state department official whose interactions with Emily’s momma’s-boy brother Jeffrey (Ike Barinholtz) are among the highlights. Also reliable for laughs are Wanda Sykes and Joan Cusack as cautious fellow tourists who take a protective stance toward Linda and Emily. Sykes gets the good lines, delivered with her characteristic understatement, while Cusack gets to be a rubber-faced mute with a background in special ops.
It’s thanks to this support, and the charisma of its leads, that Snatched just gets away with being less a movie and more an agreeable, patchy work of scenes held together by comic inspiration and timing. With a film demonstrating little more than a lack of ambition and a lost opportunity, two well-matched comedians and actors do as well as the material they’re given. When circumstances temporarily split up the pair, Snatched doesn’t give Hawn the chance to shine on her own. But if your tastes run to the rude, crude and pleasantly bizarre—the laughs are there, doing the heavy lifting for a story that barely is.
Director: Jonathan Levine
Writer: Katie Dippold
Starring: Amy Schumer, Goldie Hawn, Ike Barinholtz, Wanda Sykes, Joan Cusack, Christopher Meloni, Tom Bateman, Oscar Jaenada, Bashir Salahuddin.
Release Date: May 12, 2017