What’s funnier than mother/daughter bonding and bickering? According to ‘Snatched’, almost nothing! That’s especially true if this wacky mother/daughter combo find themselves kidnapped and fighting through the Amazon jungle, even though they’re city folk! I know that all sounds horrible, but the big studio comedy is at least mildly better than it sounds.
I’m sure you’ll be shocked to hear this: Amy Schumer plays a self-absorbed, directionless, and wiseass city girl with more attitude than accomplishments. I know. It’s a stretch. But hey, she’s good at it. So anyhoo, her character Emily recently got fired and dumped and whatever, but has non-refundable plane tickets to a tropical vacation in Ecuador. With no friends to bring along, she reluctantly invites her safety-obsessed mother, Linda (Goldie Hawn in her first film role in 15 years). After some hilarious generation gap jokes about not understanding Facebook and computers and stuff, the pair fly south of the border for wacky shenanigans in the sun. Emily is quickly seduced by a hunky dude (Tom Batemen), who offers to take the mommy/daughter duo on a day trip. Wouldn’t ya know it? They get kidnapped. Then they get lost in the jungle. Talk about fish out of water! It’s adventure time!
Yes, the setup is lame. Thankfully, the filmmakers and performers are all self-aware about that. (It’s also quite xenophobic, which everyone is far less aware of and that’s a bummer.) When Schumer isn’t doing her usual privilege parody routine (which she’s quite good at, to be fair), she’s involved in some sort of joke winking at the camera acknowledging how silly this all is. There’s a fantastic sequence where Christopher Meloni appears as a romance novel adventurer offering to help and proving to be horribly ill-suited to the job, which is a brilliant twist on ‘Romancing the Stone’-inspired clichés. The film could have used more of that.
Directing duties fell into the hands of the underrated Jonathan Levine (’50/50′, ‘Warm Bodies’), who knows how to shoot for improv and mimic an adventure movie style well enough to pull off the deadpan parody jokes and filthy non sequiturs with ease. The biggest laughs in the movie come from the sidelines as Levine and his cast hilariously toy with adventure and action movie conventions, whether it be Wanda Sykes and Joan Cusack as tourist spies, a hilarious sendup of government indifference, a hysterical string of accidental murders, or a delightful gross-out set-piece with a tapeworm. Whenever the movie mixes sarcastic slacker comedy with ironic adventure movie tropes, it’s quite knowing and fun.
Unfortunately, all that is mostly the setting of ‘Snatched’ and not the heart, which is supposed to be the mommy/daughter bonding routine from Schumer and Hawn. Schumer is fine here. She does her mocking self-absorbed persona well and gets some laughs until the single joke wears thin. Hawn occasionally shows what a charming and lively performer she can be, but is mostly stuck in a rut playing an overbearing mother cliché that’s below her talents. The pair have chemistry together, but their single-note roles never grow into characters worthy of their talents. Even worse, every 20 minutes or so, they’re required to spit out heartfelt family bonding monologues over swelling music that drags the comedy to a halt. It’s all so tacked-on and manipulative that the scenes feel more like studio notes than natural plot points in the screenplay.
When ‘Snatched’ is at its best, the movie is self-aware and gleefully silly with some stylish filmmaking above the norm in a studio comedy. It has some great lines and even better comedy set-pieces with hints of a darker/better version of the movie that likely existed at one point in an early draft or rough cut. When ‘Snatched’ is at its worst, it’s either a turgid generational bonding comedy with f-bombs that never overcomes the clichés, or a misguidedly naïve portrayal of an entire continent of people as either hunky heroes or vicious drug lords. The worst parts of the movie feel like they’re from another age that audiences have grown out of. The best stuff feels fresh, bright and fun. It’s too bad everyone involved had to toe a predictable studio line rather than cutting lose. There’s a much better movie buried within the main emotional arc of ‘Snatched’. If you can ignore all the weepy stuff and focus on the laughs, you’ll have a good time. What a shame that there’s no fast forward button in theaters.