“Snatched” will make a great Mother’s Day gift movie. Comedienne Amy Schumer’s sophomore saga boasts only half as many laughs as her big screen debut “Trainwreck.” Nevertheless, “Snatched” (**1/2 OUT OF ****) generates sufficient slapstick and silliness to keep you smirking. Presumably, “Warm Bodies” director Jonathan Levine and “Ghostbusters” scenarist Katie Dippold meant for “Snatched” to be consistently sidesplitting, but some gags end up more labored than inspired. Basically, this raunchy Twentieth Century Fox release qualifies as an amusing mother & daughter comedy of errors about a dysfunctional family and the Colombian kidnappers that complicate their South American vacation. Presumably, Schumer’s legendary co-star Goldie Hawn saw something in this nonsense to lure her out of retirement. Hawn’s last film “The Banger Sisters” came out back in 2002. Indeed, Hawn and Schumer make a believable mother and daughter. They spent the bulk of the movie together on the lam from ruthless Colombian kidnappers who want to murder them. However, Ike Barinholtz steals the show as Hawn’s agoraphobic, man-child son. He has some of the funniest scenes with Bashir Salahuddin. Meantime, Wanda Sykes, Joan Cusack, and Christopher Meloni enliven every scene they share. “Snatched” may attract little applause from travel agents with its politically incorrect depiction of Ecuador and Colombia. No doubt, this prompted the producers to complete principal photograph on location in Hawaii. Schumer gives another of her spontaneous, stand-up comic performances. Again, Schumer will stoop to conquer if the material flies. The tapeworm scene best illustrates her zeal to try anything in “Snatched.” Still looking good at 72 years of age, Hawn plays everything level-headed, so don’t expect any her “Laugh In” antics. Unlike “Trainwreck,” “Snatched” is more of an entertaining, but half-baked adventure than a hilarious romantic comedy.
Emily Middleton (Amy Schumer) has had a bad day. Not only did her obnoxious boss fire her, but also her rock musician boyfriend Michael (Randall Park of “The Interview”) had the audacity to dump her. Originally, Emily and Michael had planned to spend their vacation in sunny Ecuador. Scrambling now to find friends keen to accompany her on her pre-paid vacation, our heroine discovers that nobody wants to take advantage of this golden opportunity. Emily struggles desperately to persuade her divorced mom, Linda (Oscar winner Goldie Hawn of “Cactus Flower”), to visit Ecuador with her, but mom isn’t really excited by the prospect. She had a house full of cats and a son too fearful to venture out into the front yard. Finally, Emily appeals to Linda, “Help me put the fun in non-refundable.” Mom decides to fly with her daughter to Ecuador in spite of her worst fears about the dire consequences. Linda has three locks on her front door at home, and she is constantly warning her daughter about being lax concerning her personal safety. Naturally, Emily ignores her mom. Emily is the typical Amy Schumer character: rude, self-absorbed, and completely blind to her own flaws. She is the cinematic female counterpart to Will Ferrell. The first scene we see her in makes it look like she is a shopper having a difficult time choosing the appropriate apparel for her vacation. Actually, she is a sales clerk who spends too much time shopping for herself rather than showing the shopper (Kim Caramele) what the latter wants.
No sooner have mother and daughter arrived at their resort motel in Ecuador than a suave English hustler confronts gullible Emily. Just to make everything seem innocent, James (Tom Bateman of “Much Ado About Nothing”) invites Linda to come along with them on their outing. As they are touring the dirt roads of remote Ecuador, a white van slams into them. When Emily recovers from the shock of the crash, she finds herself locked up with her mom in a filthy room.
The notorious Morgado (Óscar Jaenada of “The Shallows”) demands an unholy ransom from Jeffrey (Ike Barinholtz of “Neighbors”), and Jeffrey has a running telephone battle with Bashir Salahuddin’s State Department bureaucrat. Clearly, not only does “Snatched” skewer South Americans, but they also poke fun at our State Department. Jeffrey winds up resorting to the most asinine threats to motivate a bored State Department bureaucrat to act. In some ways, “Snatched” reminded me of the venerable, O’ Henry short story “Ransom of Red Chief” because Emily and Linda create more chaos for their kidnappers than they can imagine. After mom and daughter break out of the trunk of a car, they clamber aboard a passing truck, and their kidnapper struggles to drag them off the vehicle. Emily kills him with a blow from a shovel to his skull. This is one of the running gags. Emily also masters a spinning kick that can drop a man dead in his tracks. Predictably, when things appear dire, Emily kills two of Morgado’s relatives. She wields a gruesome harpoon gun and skewers Morgado’s son through neck with a spear. Indeed, most of the action chronicles the flight of our two heroines from Morgado. One of the silliest scenes involves a tapeworm. A rural doctor lures it out of Emily’s mouth by dangling fresh meat in front of her like bait.
Goldie Hawn maintains her composure throughout this brisk 91-minute, R-rated escapade. Most of her humor is uncharacteristically dry. She refers to a pornographic magazine that she is reading in the kidnapper’s prison as ‘a farm journal’ to keep her wits about her. Indeed, “Snatched” contains some crude sexual content, brief nudity, and profane language. Apart from the scene-stealing Barinholtz, Christopher Meloni has a blast as a “Jungle Jim” soldier of fortune who plunges the ladies into the rainforest as they flee from their abductors. At one point, Meloni takes an uproarious leap of faith when he swings across a gorge on a vine. Wanda Sykes and Joan Cusack are cast as former special-ops agents who endeavor to help Emily rescue Linda, but wind up leaving her in the lurch when their plans go sideways. Altogether, “Snatched” will keep you grinning when you’re not laughing.