The flawed female comedic character is still alive with Amy Schumer; however, it’s also a bit boxed in for her latest incarnation. Trying on for size the role of the entitled, yet in denial and dependent on her parent, millennial, Schumer pokes fun at an entire generation of young adults while lost in the Amazon struggling for her life alongside Goldie Hawn (her movie mother) in Snatched. Directed by Jonathan Levine (50/50) and written for the screen by Katie Dippold (The Heat), the film doesn’t fall too far from formulaic and tends toward the immature at times, likely to service Schumer’s character, but nonetheless to the detriment of the film’s true comedic potential.
Snatched follows Emily (Schumer), a young woman recently fired from her retail job and dumped by her boyfriend right before their vacation to Ecuador. Upset, but still wanting to go on her (non-refundable) trip, Emily enlists her friends to join her, to no avail. On a reluctant visit to her clingy mother Linda’s (Hawn) house, Emily realizes that her now over-cautious mom “was once fun” and ultimately forces her to join the trip. Once in Ecuador, the mother-daughter pair settle into their old ways and generational gap habits until the two are kidnapped and held for ransom. Forced to work together for survival, the two attempt to outsmart their captors and overcome the dangers of the wild Amazon rainforest.
Point blank, Schumer is more funny than this movie, and more clever than this premise. Even Hawn, who has been out of the film game for quite some time (15 years), but built her career on similarly styled films, deserves better. The two clearly are having fun, have great chemistry, and fall easily into their dynamic; however, the pair don’t quite move out of the cute and charming zone into a comedic groove.
The simplicity of their characters is a leading cause of this — Emily is a broke, naive, and phone-obsessed young adult, and Linda a divorcee who is in a relationship with her cats. Linda likes the safety and comfort of home, trashy romance novels, and worrying about her children, — including her co-dependent adult son Jeffrey (Ike Barinholtz) — while Emily prefers haphazard adventure, partying, and self-indulgence. The audience never gets a real sense of Linda’s personality outside of her relationship with her kids, and Emily’s personality is wrapped up in the singularity of her youthful immaturity and selfishness. Schumer, while adding her own adult comedy and raunch, is mostly playing a character too young in spirit for her talents, which is most apparent by the fact that her jokes and bits in the film have a lot more maturity and character than “Emily” does.
Outside of actress-to-character aptitude, the story does well to expose and shed light on these two character types juxtaposed against a foreign setting. Emily’s First World problems and Linda’s sheltered comfort are put into perspective and challenged within the context of real world survival.
The hijinks outside of Emily and Linda’s A-story are where screenwriter Dippold comedically flourishes, with the help of talents such as Barinholtz, Wanda Sykes, and Joan Cusack. Barinholtz plays the agoraphobic mama’s boy Jeffrey, whose antics with an officer at the U.S. consulate provide a welcome distraction from the jungle. Sykes and Cusak play “platonic” partners that Emily and Linda meet at their Ecuador resort. The two are foils to the clueless and polarized mother-daughter pairing, being seasoned travelers, and dramatically aware of the country’s dangers. Cusak steals the spotlight though through sheer body language, playing a supposed ex-Special Forces agent who cut out her tongue in order to avoid the potential spilling of U.S. military secrets. Christopher Meloni also makes a pleasant appearance as a pompous wilderness man that the women meet during their escape and delivers some of the biggest laughs in the film.
While the plot and character arcs are predictable for the genre, the interspersed bits give the film some meat, such as Emily and Linda’s uproarious escape attempts from their captors, a bizarre experience with a tapeworm, and their ignorantly-charged interactions with the locals. In doing so, Levine and Dippold manage to use the setting of Ecuador, and the more dangerous aspects of its culture, in a tongue-in-cheek capacity, allowing Emily and Linda’s own American flaws play largely into the cultural barrier and serve as a significant source of conflict.
Verdict: 2 out of 5
This will be one of those comedies where most of the best bits are spoiled in the trailer. Hawn’s return to the screen and Schumer’s follow-up to her Golden Globe-nominated work in Trainwreck are both underutilized. The actresses are bogged down by predictable comedy formula and simplistic characters unsuited to their individual comedic skill. On a story level, it’s highly been-there-done-that, but the thing that will make the film worth the time and money is the combined forces of the film’s dream ensemble.