Film Review: Snatched

by Carrie Kahn on May 12, 2017

Hawn, Schumer deserve better than middling comedy

Emily (Amy Schumer, l.) and her mom Linda (Goldie Hawn) find themselves in a bit of a predicament when their Ecuador vacation goes awry.

Legendary comedienne Goldie Hawn has not been seen on the big screen since 2002’s The Banger Sisters, so it’s a shame that her return from a 15-year absence is in a mediocre film unworthy of her talents. On paper, the premise for Hawn’s revival movie probably sounded great: an adventure comedy that would pair her with Amy Schumer, the current generation’s hip young blonde comic actress (can a remake of Private Benjamin with Schumer in the lead be far behind?). But the genius of casting the legend as mother to the edgy newcomer only works if the material is fresh, sharp, and funny, and, unfortunately for Hawn and Schumer, Snatched falls short on that front.

In light of the equally strong talent behind the camera, Snatched’s failure feels even more disappointing. Directed by Jonathan Levine (The Night Before; 50/50) and written by screenwriter Katie Dippold (Ghostbusters; The Heat), the picture has none of the sustained, smart humor of any of those pictures. Instead, what we get here is an odd mash up of a sentimental mother-daughter bonding picture, a derivative adventure story, and only a few, all too brief comic set pieces that showcase the stars’ wasted talent.

The film actually feels like two movies in one, with all the best jokes coming at the picture’s beginning, which only serves as a bait and switch on the viewer as the movie progresses. The picture starts promisingly enough, with a very funny scene of the self-absorbed Emily (Schumer) seemingly shopping for her upcoming trip to Ecuador with her boyfriend. In rapid succession, we are then treated to the boyfriend (a scene-stealing Randall Park) breaking up with Emily, Emily desperately using social media to find a new travel partner, and a hilarious scene of domestic squabbling between Emily, her eccentric brother Jeffrey (Ike Barinholtz), and their mother Linda (Hawn) that will ring true to anyone with a sibling. These scenes all have an edgy, head-shaking, laugh-out-loud quality reminiscent of Schumer’s last comedy Trainwreck, but, sadly for the viewer, the laughs pretty much cease once Emily convinces homebody, worry-wart Linda to take the non-refundable (“Help me put the ‘fun’ in non-refundable,” Emily says) trip with her.

Jeffrey (Ike Barinholtz) doggedly pursues government help when he learns his mom and sister have been kidnapped.

From there, we move on to the Ecuadorian vacation, where our heroines are promptly kidnapped (or, rather, Snatched) by some ne’er-do-wells, and the picture devolves into a rather rote and mostly dull series of captures and chases, chases and captures, all within the confines of the way too familiar fish-out-of-water premise, as the middle-class Big City gals try to navigate the Amazonian jungle.

Along the way we get a totally disgusting and completely unfunny scene with a tapeworm, accidental murders of Ecuadorian bad guys that are played for laughs (I know they’re bad guys, but they’re still human, and the cavalierness of these scenes rubbed me the wrong way), and some heart-to-heart moments between mother and daughter that actually elevate the proceedings a little, thanks to Hawn’s sincere performance and Schumer’s skillful ability to play brash and selfish as a cover for emotional vulnerability.

Emily (Amy Schumer, center) finds allies in fellow tourists (and bad asses) Barb (Joan Cusack, l.) and Ruth (Wanda Sykes).

A blatant but low brow Indiana Jones rip off, the fleeing-in-the-jungle plot is saved somewhat by Christopher Meloni as an American adventurer who isn’t quite what he seems. Meloni appears to be enjoying himself immensely, and his bravado and scenery chewing provide a few much-needed laughs during the long and rather routine jungle escape sequence. Similarly, Joan Cusack and Wanda Sykes, as fellow tourists who come to Linda and Emily’s aid, bring welcome laughs to every scene they’re in. Cusack, who doesn’t utter a word in the entire film (her character was in Special Ops, and… well, it’s not important), proves she’s an adept physical comedian as she easily elicits more laughs from her facial expressions and body language than do many of the spoken words in Dippold’s often lackluster script.

Hawn and Schumer, who do have some palpable chemistry and are believable as mother and daughter, are game and try their best, but, ultimately, the Levine/Dippold collaboration lets them down. If the entire lost-in-the-jungle angle had been left out, we might have had a warm, funny comedy about a mother and daughter reconnecting. As it stands, though, this over-the-top, silly cartoon ill serves its leading ladies, as well as its audience.

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Snatched opens today at Bay Area theaters.

Carrie Kahn

Moving from the arthouse to the multiplex with grace, ease, and only the occasional eye roll.

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