Just two years ago, Amy Schumer made her starring debut in the charming Judd Apatow-directed Trainwreck, which played to Schumer’s comedic strengths and solidifying her as a star. With Schumer’s second starring role – Snatched – she brings a legend out of retirement, making Goldie Hawn her co-star, in her first film since 2002’s The Banger Sisters. With Schumer at the top of her game, and Hawn ready to make her triumphant return to film for the first time in fifteen years, Snatched has all the potential one could want from summer’s first big comedy. Unfortunately, the film is lazy and unsurprising, a waste of both Schumer and Hawn’s skills, and a huge step down from the previous work of writer Katie Dippold (The Heat, last year’s Ghostbusters) and director Jonathan Levine (50/50, The Night Before).
Within one day Schumer’s Emily loses her retail job, then gets broken up with by her rock star boyfriend (Randall Park), with whom she was getting ready to take a Ecuador vacation. With an extra nonreturnable ticket and no friends, Emily invites her mother Linda (Hawn), who chooses to stay at home with her cats since her husband left her family. Once in Ecuador, Emily meets a man who leads her and her mother to get kidnapped for an unknown reason. After an escape from their kidnappers, Emily and Linda must make their way through the Amazon and return home.
Snatched presents Emily and Linda with one characteristic each, which the film falls back on in nearly every situation. Emily is a conceited jerk who apparently wanted to go on a beautiful vacation only to Instagram the whole thing. Linda is afraid of any new adventures, therefore she always comes off as the wet blanket to any new path the story takes. What this leaves is the comedic legend as the straight woman, without any laughs in sight, and makes the comedic star into an irritating, one-note mess of poor decisions.
The screenplay never seems sure what the association between Emily and Linda should even be. At some points, they look incredibly close with each other, with Emily coming over for family dinners with her mother and her awkward brother Jeffrey (Ike Barinholtz). At other times, Linda complains that they aren’t as close as they should be. Because of this ambiguity, Schumer and Hawn never meld as a viable mother-daughter dynamic. There’s never one second that Snatched doesn’t come off as simply Schumer’s desire to get Hawn back on the screen.
It all is at its most comfortable and at funniest when the movie relies on the various weirdos that Emily and Linda meet, taking the focus off their bond. Barinholtz’s frustrations towards a State Department official (Bashir Salahuddin) as he tries to save his family present the film at its strangest and best. Wanda Sykes and Joan Cusack are equally bombastic as platonic friends, the latter of which has special ops training that eventually help Emily and Linda. Especially refreshing is Christopher Meloni as an Amazon guide who clearly has no idea what he’s doing. These various cameos offer a welcome respite from the misguided relationship that Snatched centers around.
Odd, considering that Levine’s films often thrive on the power of friendship and love. Both The Night Before and especially 50/50 feature wonderful yet flawed bonds between parents and their children. Levine can make fantastic films that center on these ideals, yet when they take an uncertain backseat to pedestrian gags, the film falls apart as it does here.
Snatched is sporadically amusing, but ultimately forgetful comedy that is too tame and bland. It is likely just an excuse for Schumer to work with Hawn, and the barebones material doesn’t dissuade that idea. Hawn and Schumer both deserve a better showcase for their talents.