The pairing of a beloved comedic actress of an earlier generation and one of comedy’s biggest names today in a mother-daughter adventure comedy released Mother’s Day weekend without any of the saccharine frills that usually accompany that holiday seems like it should be a hit. Right? Instead, Snatched fails to use the talents of Goldie Hawn and retreats to so much lazy humor that it falls somewhere between blasé and bad.
The plot of Snatched is pretty basic. Emily (Amy Schumer) is getting ready for a prepaid, non-refundable trip to Ecuador with her boyfriend when she gets fired from her job and dumped by said boyfriend. Apparently, she’s a pretty awful person, because no one will even entertain the idea of going with her in her boyfriend’s place. While wallowing at her worrywart mother’s house, Emily discovers that her mom, Linda (Goldie Hawn), used to be quite the adventurer, and twists her arm into coming along on the trip. Seeing scrapbook photos of young Goldie Hawn with her big smile is pretty much the high point of the movie. On the trip, Emily chafes at everything her mother says and does, and Linda just wants to read a book and avoid sunburn. While drinking alone at a hotel bar, Emily meets James (Tom Bateman), who takes her on a night of adventure and then sets Emily and Linda up to be kidnapped by a cartel the next day. Unfortunately for the cartel, as they try to escape, Emily keeps accidentally murdering the bad guys. Meanwhile, Emily’s agoraphobic brother, Jeffery (Ike Barinholtz), is busy annoying the State Department into taking action on Emily and Linda’s behalf. There are also some former special-ops characters played by Wanda Sykes and Joan Cusack who seem to have wandered in from their own buddy comedy for a couple of scenes.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t occasionally laugh during Snatched, but the whole premise is so inherently unfunny that I felt a little bad about laughing. Slapstick humor is built on exaggerated violence or grossness, but when it reaches the level of bashing someone’s head in with a shovel or putting a spear through their neck, it stopped being funny. Paired with the portrayal of Ecuador and Columbia as the home of either poor jungle people or blood-thirsty drug lords, the whole scenario was cringe-worthy. At one point, the leader of the cartel calls Emily on her cultural tourism, accusing her of coming to Ecuador to look at his people like animals in a zoo, and it calls the whole movie on the carpet only to revert to lazy jokes. As if this is not enough, in the middle, there is a terrible incident with a tapeworm and a man dying of cancer masquerading as an Amazonian hero. Snatched is a weird, slapdash jaunt that I wanted to leave.
All that said, Goldie Hawn and Amy Schumer have great chemistry as a mother-daughter duo. I wished so badly that the screenplay had been better and given Hawn much more to do. If the film had actually tried to explore the relationship without using tired tropes about aging mothers and disastrous daughters, it could have been much more interesting and could have pushed Schumer out of her well-worn groove to see if she can do anything other than Trainwreck.
I also enjoyed Jeffery much more than I thought I would. Ike Barinholtz usually plays such grating characters, I was nervous about having both him and Schumer in the same movie, but his character here is so pathetic, it was actually fun to see him succeed. He and Schumer also made a lot of sense as siblings. I wanted to see more of the whole family together instead of the stupid, gross-out South-America-is-a-mess garbage.
Snatched is a rental. I would not pay to see it, but it does offer occasionally funny moments and some glimpses at what could have been a much better movie. 2/5 stars.
Snatched was written by Katie Dippold and directed by Jonathan Levine. It runs exactly 90 minutes and is rated R, because it’s Amy Schumer; what do you expect?
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