It’s been fifteen long years since Goldie Hawn appeared on the silver screen. Star of films like Private Benjamin, Wildcats, Overboard, Death Becomes Her, The First Wives Club and many more, Hawn is a proven virtuoso of virtually any genre in the last fifty years. Having her team with multi-hyphenate Amy Schumer (Trainwreck) to create a mother-daughter duo in director Jonathan Levine’s (Warm Bodies/The Night Before) action-comedy Snatched feels like absolute perfection. In execution, however, Snatched just doesn’t stick the landing. With script by Katie Dippold (The Heat/Ghostbusters), stellar leads, and plenty of hilarious guest-stars, all signs should point to an excellent adventure. Instead, Snatched prominently feels like an overlong Inside Amy Schumer sketch gone wrong.
Emily Middleton (Amy Schumer) wants to live the high-life, but lacks the ambition to get it done on her own. Luckily, her boyfriend Michael (Randall Park) is in a band breaking into the mainstream, so Emily’s thinking she’s set to go. Unfortunately, Michael’s as vapid as Emily, and knowing he’s on the fast track for massive hook-ups, he dumps her. Hard. Right before they’re set to go on a non-refundable Ecuadoran adventure. With her friends either settled well into the maturity of adulthood (or claiming Emily owes them cash), she turns to the only person left: her disapproving, homebody mother Linda (Goldie Hawn). After some strong-arming, Linda agrees to go to Ecuador and so begins their mother-daughter trip to paradise that rapidly devolves into a fight for survival, forcing the two to work out their differences to make it out alive.
Leads Schumer and Hawn are no strangers to physical comedy, excelling at conveying hilarity through discomfort. However, where Hawn succeeds as the straight-woman – setting up jokes for Schumer or deriving laughs from the “Mom” character – Schumer is frequently the butt of the joke. Schumer’s Emily is a selfish, self-centered character, so this type of humiliation-focused comedy makes sense as the character supposedly develops throughout the story, but Emily is also the center of the story and the catalyst for all the misfortune that occurs. Audiences are supposed to root for Emily, but you can’t. Not really. And it frequently feels like Dippold and Levine script don’t want audiences to do so until the very end of the film. Because of this, much of Snatched is a hard watch as Emily is frequently punished by the story again and again.
Despite the frequent discomfort presented by the constant shaming and degradation of Emily, Schumer handles it like a pro. In lesser hands, Emily’s a stereotypical slacker who’s only as deep as her drinking glass, but Schumer manages to bring out her humanity in small bursts of vulnerability. This makes the character turn toward the end of the film believable, even if wholly predictable. As for Hawn’s Linda, her character initially seems like it’s meant to be take the brunt of the jokes as the over-protective, world-fearing mother, yet her instincts and knowledge prove time-and-again to be on-target and true. Linda should be over-bearing, yet Hawn utilizes a softer touch, making Linda far more grounded and appealing than Emily. It also helps that Schumer and Hawn possess excellent chemistry, making the predictability of each joke and character turn all the more disappointing that they don’t have better material to showcase their work.
Even gathering together a talented group of supporting actors feels like an utter waste. Writer/Actor Ike Barinholtz (Central Intelligence/Neighbors) plays Jeffrey, the agoraphobic mama’s boy sibling to Emily. At first, the jokes between Emily and Jeffrey seem like standard sibling rivalry until you realize that Jeffrey really does have a mother-complex, at which point his character becomes exponentially creepy throughout Snatched. Talented dramatist Christopher Meloni (Man of Steel/Wet Hot American Summer) appears as Roger, a boat captain who offers to safeguard Emily and Linda as they make their way through the Amazon. His American bravado fits in nicely with the slightly amped atmosphere Snatched sets up, yet that same heightened sense of reality also undercuts Roger’s credibility, making it easy to guess what Roger’s real motivations are as not everyone is who they seem on this trip (a frequent theme throughout). Strangely, two cast members are simultaneously underused and exhaustingly overused – that of Wanda Sykes’s repetitively verbose Ruth and mute platonic partner Barb, played by Joan Cusack. Ruth’s frequency to jabber on increasingly grates toward the end of the film, whereas Barb, who’s only used for a fraction, is far more interesting. The dichotomy of tell-me vs show-me in Ruth and Barb’s relationship is a strong representation of Snatched as a whole. It’s much stronger when it stops beating itself over and over and just gets to the point.
On the whole, Snatched isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel, so audiences will likely find the humor in watching Emily failing ass-over-ankles repeatedly as she and Linda try to make it out of the jungle. On the plus side, Snatched is a reminder that (1) the girls are more than capable of keeping up the boys and (2) Hawn is still damn good at what she does. Unfortunately, Snatched fails to utilize the strengths of Schumer and Hawn in any compelling way.
Final Score: 2.5 out of 5.