Jonathan Levine’s Snatched flies in with a lot of wide-reaching and intelligent comic talent and only asks them to make a mess. Goldie Hawn’s cinematic return after a fifteen year absence is cause for immediate celebration, but pairing her with Amy Schumer as a mother-daughter team promises uproarious comic gold. The resulting film is greatly indebted to their ever-present charms and natural comic timing that it never matches.
Worse yet, it gives them a fairly rote vehicle and only asks its actresses to do so much, seldom tapping into their best assets or capacity for genuine feeling. It’s as if the film doesn’t know what it has on its hands.
Schumer stars as entitled screw-up Emily, recently dumped and left with a non-refundable vacation to Ecuador. Having burned all of her friends’ bridges, she recruits her over-protective and cat-loving mother Linda (Hawn) to keep her company. Upon arrival, Emily quickly gets cozy with a swarthy charmer that delivers them to a South American drug lord demanding ransom. The ensuing escape crosses the jungle and ropes in Wanda Sykes and Joan Cusack as former agents and obvious lovers. Half of the jokes you’re expecting of this plot line are present and flatter than you imagined, and the more interesting half is missing entirely.
Levine is unmatched to the material, mostly missing the heart that made his previous films 50/50 and The Night Before register beyond the silliness elsewhere. Despite some strong laughs, the director doesn’t establish a strong comic rhythm or capitalize on the gift of two stars playing right into their wheelhouse. His scattered touch misses the character insights that Katie Dippold’s screenplay hands him, and only lower the stakes. For every laugh that registers, there are two missed opportunities. When Snatched takes a second to breathe or embrace Dippold’s characterizations, it finds its stride by letting the stars take the lead.
Thankfully the goodwill towards its affable stars goes some way towards dulling its coarseness – the film is passively racist in its depiction of a dangerous South America, coming more from Levine’s hammering of cliche than actual ill intent. The formulaic beats that work belong to Dippold.
Snatched is padded with extraneous, frustrating bits like Ike Barinholtz as Emily’s agoraphobic brother and Christopher Meloni’s campy surveyor. So much of the film misses the mark, but it struggles most when it loses focus of Emily and Linda’s relationship. Schumer and Hawn (and to a lesser extent Sykes and Cusack), however, are such detailed performers to make the most of what their allowed.
But Hawn and Schumer can only do so much for a film that does so little for them. While Snatched is a disappointment as a Trainwreck follow-up sophomore slump for Schumer, it’s a real head-scratcher of a return for Hawn – this is what brought her back after all this time? Such an inspired pairing deserves more than something this forgettable.