An underwhelming Amy Schumer-led trip through South America.
On paper, Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn may seem like a bit of an no-brainer mother-daughter pairing for a movie, especially one that sends them through an off-kilter, screwball adventure through the Amazonian jungles of South America. So with a prime early summer release date, it’s easy to see why Snatched is being set up as one of 20th Century Fox’s biggest comedies of the year, one that hopes to capitalize on Schumer’s current popularity enough to be an early breakout hit for what is going to be an undoubtedly packed summer season. It’s just a shame, then, that Snatched never quite feels funny or original enough to be worthy of such distinction.
Right off the bat, it doesn’t help that Schumer and Hawn wind up being the weakest members of a surprisingly strong cast of comedic players. The duo play Emily and Linda Middleton, an estranged mother and daughter with very different personalities. The aimless Emily is unable to realize that her party girl schtick may finally be wearing thin, while Linda is a reclusive divorcee living with her cats.
After Emily’s burgeoning rockstar boyfriend dumps her just days before their non-refundable trip to Ecuador, Emily forces Linda to come to South America with her in the hopes of saving herself from the embarrassment of going alone, and hopefully, she thinks, saving her mom from the “boring” life she’s been living. When they end up kidnapped by a group of sleazy local gangsters, the duo must escape and make their way to the US Embassy in Bogota before their captors catch up.
Both actresses bring familiar performances to their roles, but with varying degrees of success. Hawn plays the straight character in the duo, never freaking out, and always annoyed at what’s going on around her. For the most part, Hawn does an alright job at it. She comes out on top in fact, opposite Schumer’s outrageous, over-the-top Emily, who’s so whiny and entitled that it becomes increasingly hard to like her as time goes on. Schumer’s acting has never been her strong suit, and when she’s playing Emily as a normal girl stuck in arrested development, not knowing where to go in life, she’s at her most watchable in the film. The problem is that from the moment Emily and Linda are captured until the film’s conclusion, Schumer spends the entire time playing Emily on such an over-the-top, ridiculous, gullible level that it’s hard to ever feel any kind of attachment to her.
That only becomes more true when names like Joan Cusack, Wanda Sykes, Ike Barinholtz, Randall Park, and even Christopher Meloni all pop up at various times throughout the film, with funnier moments and gags than any that Schumer and Hawn have themselves, despite the pair being put through the most ridiculous sequences in the actual film itself. One of those includes an unexpectedly CGI-heavy sequence involving a tapeworm that comes out of nowhere, and feels completely unnecessary to everything else going on in Snatched.
Out of the supporting cast members, Barinholtz gets the most to do as Linda’s lazy, co-dependent son, Jeffrey, who learns of Emily and Linda’s kidnapping early on in the film, and proceeds to try and save them by harassing an unfortunate US State Department employee, Morgan Russell (played by Bashir Salahuddin). Their interactions together are some of the funniest moments in the movie, and make up for the fact that Jeffrey’s overall storyline really doesn’t serve or move the film’s plot forward in any meaningful way. Like many of the other digressions in the film, it really doesn’t need to be there, but it’s pure comedic impact helps to bring energy to Snatched whenever Emily and Linda’s storyline starts to drag again.
The film’s director, Jonathan Levine (50/50, Warm Bodies), has proven time and time again that he has an ability to make unlikely tonal combinations work more than he has any right to. But with Snatched, he fumbles and misses more than he has with any of his recent projects, so much so that it’s understandable if you forget that he even directed the film in the first place, until the credits eventually roll around to remind you again. In the end, that’s the biggest issue with Snatched. It won’t by any means go down as the worst comedy of the year, but with Levine as the film’s director, Katie Dippold (The Heat, Ghostbusters) as its screenwriter, and the impressive cast, there’s no reason that Snatched shouldn’t have turned out much, much better.