Despite casting two talented leads as a dysfunctional mother/daughter duo, Snatched feels incredibly uninspired. The movie fails to rely on the endearing charm of Goldie Hawn or the sporadic and spontaneous humor of Amy Schumer. Instead, it’s held together by a scattershot screenplay constructed around a been here/done that premise. The movie strands the actresses much like their characters in the story: in a situation devoid of belly laughs and meaningful relationships. Considering this is from the director of 50/50 and The Night Before, both of which deliver on both ends, it’s even more frustrating.
In her cinematic follow-up to the surprise hit Trainwreck, Schumer portrays Emily. She immediately starts off the film on the proverbial wrong side of the tracks. She’s fired from her retail job and is dumped by her music-aspiring boyfriend on the same day. Because she’s stuck with a non-refundable trip to Ecuador without any companionship, she convinces her mom Linda (Hawn) to come along. Linda is the stereotypical crazy cat lady who is terrified of leaving the confinement of her home. Shortly after their trip begins, the pair finds themselves in a world entirely separated from reality and substantial humor.
Even though she does not have a screenplay credit, the raunchy sensibility of Snatched is not too astray from Schumer’s brand of comedy. While recently her work has been more inconsistent, there have been instances where that style of hilarity has worked for her. Unfortunately, Snatched mistakes vulgarity for being subversive or clever. You know you are in trouble when the first two jokes upon their arrival in Ecuador revolve around rape whistles and wordplay centered around semen. These types of jokes create a sense of awkwardness when the film spontaneously decides to focus on the fundamental differences between the two main characters. In a bubble, that argument makes for the best scene because it provides actual hindsight into the lives of Linda and Emily. Within the film, it’s subsequently dropped and is never touched on again.
Instead of being comparable to something like Trainwreck or 50/50, Snatched feels like a dark reflection of Adam Sandler’s recent filmography. The main conceit of white women being kidnapped by a cartel is never played as satirical. Instead, it’s crass and comes across as xenophobic. The supporting characters are played by talented actors hamstrung in stereotypical roles. Linda and Emily come across a pair of peculiar tourists (Joan Cusack and Wanda Sykes) who appear at random and re-appear just the same. They even meet an Indiana Jones knockoff (Christopher Meloni), whose only purpose is to move them into the jungle and to be the butt of one of the most telegraphed jokes seen in a long time. Many of the decisions are baffling, such as casting the great Cusack in a role that requires her to remain mute. The potential is always there for a gut busting joke but the payoff ranges from low brow amusement to eye rolling.
While it’s welcoming to see Hawn return to the silver screen, little is done to capitalize on a role that’s completely against her type from the 80s and 90s. She does an admirable job at portraying the nagging mother who has difficulty getting back in touch with the world. While her character does have more consistency than Schumer, her fear of foreign countries is more racist than endearing. She manages to earn some occasional chuckles but the film seems more preoccupied with using her as a plot device rather than a fleshed out duel-protagonist. The one character who gets a consistently funny subplot is Emily’s brother (Ike Barinholtz) who frequently calls an increasingly annoyed State department worker.
Director Jonathan Levine and screenwriter Katie Dippold apparently used some sort of template to construct Snatched. It’s filled to the brim with virtually every sort of convention found in recent R comedies, ranging from unexpected nudity to the prolonged gross out gag. For a film that’s only 90 minutes, the pacing is incredibly lackluster. This stems from the fact that a third of the runtime is spent on getting the leads to Ecuador. While it has the talent in place to make something truly worthwhile, Snatched feels desperate to cash in on a worn out premise using two talented stars.