snatched review

The world of comedy has changed vastly since Goldie Hawn’s last big-screen appearance in The Banger Sisters in 2002. Largely, comedy has progressed in the last 15 years, but Hawn’s return is not the banner occasion she deserves. Snatched, in which she plays the neurotic mother of a selfish wild child played by Amy Schumer, is mostly lazy and turgid. There are laughs stranded throughout, amidst a vast ocean of squandered potential.

Schumer, playing a scattershot version of the drunk-girl archetype she skewers in her stand-up and on Inside Amy Schumer, is Emily Middleton, a shiftless woman who gets fired from her retail job and dumped by her musician boyfriend all in the same day. After realizing none of her friends will join her on a previously booked, non-refundable trip to Ecuador, Emily convinces her lonely mother Linda (Hawn) to join her. At first, the trip is predictable: Linda is overly fearful of anything that’s not rigorously planned while traveling in such a strange country, as Emily parties with an attractive foreigner. But then, on a day trip off the beaten path, Linda and Emily are kidnapped — or, as the title says, snatched — by a fearsome gangster (Oscar Jaenada) and must fend for themselves in the jungles of South America.

The premise of Snatched is shaky enough on its own — white people go to a foreign country and are attacked by locals — and the script by Katie Dippold never feels willing enough to mock Emily and Linda for their cultural stereotypes. (Especially since a good number of those stereotypes are, within the structure of the film, proven true.) Schumer’s performance, or simply the way the character is written, is at cross-purpose. Half of the time, Emily is self-centered, vain, and dumb, using other people to get what she wants. The other half, Emily is a wry, Bugs Bunny-esque commentator, scoffing at Linda and the other characters. She’s either too self-aware or not self-aware enough, depending on what the scene requires.

Hawn is a welcome sight, playing against type based on her work in the ’80s and ’90s. She does a fine job playing the nag of a mother who’s the bane of her daughter’s existence, and is more consistently written from beginning to end. It doesn’t resolve Linda’s skepticism of foreign culture bordering on casual racism, but at least Hawn’s more natural in the role. Aside from her, the scant few bright spots are Ike Barinholtz as Linda’s other child, an agoraphobic nerd who ends up driving a State Department agent (Bashir Salahuddin, also very funny) crazy trying to get his family back home; and Christopher Meloni as a helpful American who Emily and Linda meet after escaping their initial captor.

Otherwise, Snatched is a film of baffling, often very bad ideas and notions. Example: casting Joan Cusack in a raucous comedy is a wonderful idea, because Joan Cusack is herself quite wonderful. But casting Joan Cusack as a mute ex-Special Ops agent (in Ecuador with her “platonic friend” played by Wanda Sykes) is a terrible, terrible idea. The multiple scenes in the film with Hawn, Schumer, Sykes, and Cusack offer so many chances for genius comedy, but they fall flat. It’s not just that the writing is spotty at best; director Jonathan Levine and his two editors can’t quite maintain a solid pace for a movie that’s barely 90 minutes and takes 30 of those minutes to get to the two leads being abducted.

Like several other recent comedies (such as The Heat, co-written by Dippold, and directed by one of this film’s producers, Paul Feig), Snatched tries to balance comedy and action, the latter taking form through bouts of shocking violence. There’s not a ton of gore here, but there is a body count; it’s not that a comedy where bodies start dropping can’t be good, but the filmmakers just aren’t able to swivel from one genre to the other without inducing creative whiplash. Then, of course, there’s a distinct sense of the script for Snatched checking off boxes on a list of what needs to appear in a modern comedy. Unexpected nudity played for laughs? Check. A passionate argument at the end of the second act to cause the leads to realize their mistakes? Check. A gross-out scene? Check. (On that last point, it’s possible that this movie has a grosser, more gratuitous body-horror-esque scene than next week’s Alien: Covenant.)

Snatched should be something of an event, heralding the return of one of the great female comedy stars. Goldie Hawn acquits herself well, even though this film rarely deserves her talent. Pairing Hawn with Amy Schumer makes sense on paper, and there are a handful of moments where they do genuinely strike up a mother-daughter bond. But the moments that are heartfelt or funny are few and far between. The talent is present in the cast, and Dippold and Levine have made good movies before. But Snatched rarely feels like anything other than a desperate, sweaty attempt to make a feature film out of a creaky premise.

/Film Rating: 3 out of 10

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About the Author

Josh Spiegel is a Phoenix-based critic & writer. He's one of the hosts of Mousterpiece Cinema, a podcast about Disney films. He's also written a book of criticism on Pixar, titled Yesterday is Forever: Nostalgia and Pixar Animation Studios.