When I heard that Goldie Hawn and Amy Schumer were cast as mother and daughter, the pairing seemed irresistible. The union of two great comic actresses with very different personas—Schumer, the self-destructive party girl; Hawn, the spoiled, deceptively ditsy princess—was sure to equal comedy gold. But my assumption was based on the belief that the film would take advantage of these personas, riff on them. It doesn’t. Snatched is definitely a showcase for Schumer’s (still funny but in danger of growing tiresome) shtick, but the mother character—a fretful and overprotective widow—could virtually be played by anyone. And Hawn, making her first film in 15 years, seems all too aware of this fact. She’s not fully engaged.
Here’s the setup: Having been dumped by her boyfriend (Randall Park in a funny cameo), Schumer’s Emily finds herself in possession of two tickets to Ecuador and no one to go with her. Somehow, she convinces Linda, her homebody mother, to join her. Once in Ecuador, Linda just wants to sit by the pool or hole up in her room reading her book, whereas Emily wants to seek adventure (and eligible men). Also staying at the hotel, “just friends” Wanda Sykes and former special ops soldier Joan Cusack, both also criminally underused. (Come to think of it, the film isn’t particularly generous to its cast outside of Schumer.)
Emily meets a too-good-to-be true hunk (Tom Bateman), convinces her mom to join them on an outing in the village, and faster than you can say, “Gringos in peril!” she and Linda have been kidnapped by a sneering crime lord (Óscar Jaenada). In other words, Mom was right. Ecuador is dangerous and they probably should’ve just stayed at the resort. (It’s hard to accuse the film of xenophobia when it’s all so cartoonish, but let’s just say the South American Tourism Board will not be pleased.)
Snatched often feels scattered and impatient. Linda and Emily never seem to be in real danger, nor do they ever seem particularly scared. (Oh, what I would’ve given for a good Goldie Hawn freakout scene.) Even the best bits—Christopher Meloni as a rugged expat who’s not all he seems; Emily dealing with a tapeworm—go by too quickly. (The script, by Katie Dippold, seems to take its cues from Schumer’s sketch comedy show.) Ike Barinholtz is on hand as Emily’s agoraphobic brother, who whips into action when his beloved “muh-MAH” is in peril, but the film overestimates how funny that pronunciation is. And I have no idea what the film has against the State Department or the American Embassy in Colombia, but they are depicted as impossibly bumbling and incompetent here.
Snatched definitely has its fair share of laughs, but it could’ve been so much more. Imagine if they’d actually played to the strengths of their both their leads.