Good supporting characters are a godsend for any comedy, but what happens when these side-pawns overshadow leading roles? Such is the dilemma throughout Snatched. Writer Katie Dippold’s on-page strength resides in quick-jab punchlines. A wacky adventurer who speaks in catch phrases played by Christopher Meloni? Belly laughs aplenty. Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn fleeing aimlessly from armed kidnappers and lush rainforest peril? There are moments, but most are expected and lacking emotional highlights. Although, less conversations are peppered with overt vulgarity than expected (a norm in today’s mainstream comedy world) – praise where praise is deserved? Not exactly perfection, but Jonathan Levine avoids directing an entirely juvenile Vacation-gone-deadly.
Schumer stars as Emily Middleton, a recently dumped mimosa-chugger with no personal direction. Hawn plays her divorced, cat-loving mother. Despite their differences (and relationship), Linda (Hawn) agrees to be Emily’s plus-one for an Ecuadorian getaway. It’s non-refundable and no one else will go – but that’s beside the point! They’re sipping cocktails and reading romantic novellas poolside before long, ushering in hopeful relaxation. Emily then goes out for the night and meets a dreamy man named James (Tom Bateman). Alcohol, dancing and tit-slips lead to a next-day excursion outside resort walls, which we find out is for a reason. Both Emily and Linda are kidnapped by thugs, then coming-to in a dirty cell. Time for a great escape!
And so an overprotective mother and her millennial-stereotype daughter must endure Colombia’s exotic terrors, with their captor – Morgado (Óscar Jaenada) – in close pursuit. Why continue chasing two female tourists with no ransom potential, you ask? Because Emily killed not only Morgado’s nephew (with a shovel), but also his only son (with a harpoon to the throat).
Suffice it to say that comedy finds itself mixed with insane violence and family drama quite randomly. One would assume that killing two men might rattle a self-obsessed “Woo!” Girl (pardon the HIMYM reference), but not here! In addition to these American-idiot visitors appropriating third-world cultures for first-world revelations, Emily also murders multiple people with no consequence (self-defense, sure). That’s the kind of movie Snatched is. Dippold graduated from the school of Paul Feig, no shock. And it shows.
That said, there are some outrageously funny moments – even outside of Meloni’s perfection. Schumer’s humor may not be for everyone, yet her fearlessness on camera is something to be admired. Does Dippold insert vaginal humor anywhere possible? Count how many times the word “pussy” is blurted before Schumer even reaches Ecuador. Do other moments of vulgarity score necessary laughs? Yes, because no one can play a drunk floozy like Ms. Schumer (and yes, that’s a compliment).
An unfortunate hotel lobby mishap leads to a schwasted discussion with Hawn, permitting a mother’s first-hand account of her spawn’s reckless behavior. Emotional marks hang a bit low, but Schumer is too goddamn good at partying, playing socially numb and caring only about herself. Snatched my lack Trainwreck‘s depth, but there’s still genuine humor to be found in the blonde duo’s ditzy dash. Score one for white-bread suburbia.
Even better are the film’s surrounding talents, from Ike Barinholtz’s should-be-so-annoying usage of “Ma’ma!” (he plays Schumer’s manchild brother) to Joan Cusack’s mute Spec Ops expertise. Wanda Sykes acts as Cusack’s voice, while her vacation buddy readies for dickhole interrogation torture that’ll make any man wince. Their unspoken relationship remains a constant question mark in the best ways, only bested by two pairs of crazy eyes unleashed when Schumer needs them least. Give me a Sykes/Cusack spinoff!
I’ve already mentioned Meloni as the rugged explorer torn from an Uncharted video game (his JCPenny safari hat tells a different story) – whose scene-stealing potential I can’t undersell – and then there’s Morgan (Bashir Salahuddin), the government agent who takes no shit. Whether it be Barinholtz driving Morgan absolutely insane or Cusack’s stunt-double parkouring over roofs, the collective lunatics of Snatched are its collective glue. Meloni, Barinholtz, Salahuddin – they all steal scenes. But who these scenes are stolen from becomes a slight issue.
The fact remains that offbeat humor only ventures so far. Levine struggles to map the emotional undercurrent steering both Schumar and Hawn. Bickering persists as one lathers the other in far too much sunscreen (you guess), as Levine plays up the ordinary (stay-at-home mother babying her adult daughter). Lovey admissions and unearthed truths play like family-being-open B-roll, but that doesn’t mean connection is fleeting. Snatched will surprise you at the weirdest times, albeit less often than Levine has previously been able to coax drama from obscurity.
It’s in a rare moment of honesty that Dippold fingers an emotional pulse – a mid-hike fight before Schumar passes out – because we finally get the generational comparison we’ve been waiting for. Schumar makes a comment about her mother having wasted years alone, in the same house, while Hawn retorts with a simple “raising you was a waste?” It’s a short fight that loudly echoes modern sentiments. Humans used to go from high school to white-picket-fence households with no hesitation. Today’s “adults” (me included, hence the quotation marks)? We can barely fathom the free time required to even begin *planning* for a future. It’s a boiling of frustrations and fears that might rise in any parent, pitted against “wayward” kin. Times are a’changing, and it’s not always easy to comprehend.
Snatched doesn’t near the heartfelt heights of 50/50 or the comic lunacy of The Night Before, but nevertheless, Jonathan Levine endangers a dysfunctional-enough family of characters worth following. You’ve seen Amy Schumer do it all before, and with a sharper tongue. You’ve also seen Goldie Hawn play more rounded sweethearts, without such mommy-knows-best simplicity. Katie Dippold charts an introspective course for her fish-out-of-water hijinks, one that seems primed for a Melissa McCarthy cameo at any given second. Just know that whenever the film seems to faceplant in a mucky puddle, another random character will soon offer Schumer or Hawn their hand in support. Redemption, thy name is Cusack, Meloni and more. The real MVPs, for better or worse.
While Snatched stars big names in Schumer and Hawn, the ones you'll be remembering are Cusack, Meloni and Barinholtz.