Snatched starts strong, with a solid first act based in character-driven comedy featuring two generations of funny women. Amy Schumer stars as Emily, a vapid asshole who is stuck with a non-refundable trip to Ecuador after her musician boyfriend (Randall Park, hilarious in one scene) dumps her because his budding rockstar status offers him a buffet of pussy. The opening scenes establish Emily as the kind of Instagram Millennial everyone loves to hate—shallow, obsessed with status, and using filters and strategic staging to make her life look better than it is. Schumer excels at playing “unlikeable” women, and Emily is highly unlikeable. She genuinely doesn’t seem to understand why no one will go to Ecuador with her, even as one friend texts back, “You owe me $300,” which is everything we need to know about her.
Stuck with that non-refundable ticket, though, she’s determined to go on her trip, which is how she ends up convincing her shut-in mother, Linda, to go with her. Goldie Hawn hasn’t been in a film in fifteen years, not since 2002’s The Banger Sisters, and Snatched deserves some credit for getting her back on the big screen, even though Linda is not what you would typically consider a “Goldie Hawn character”, as she’s uptight and introverted and nervous. But Hawn finds all the angles and makes Linda as funny as she can, given that she is side-lined for a chunk of the film.
Which is one of the bigger problems in Snatched. Hawn and Schumer have a great rapport, and there’s something to the dynamic of Schumer playing an overgrown wild-child and Hawn playing her mother as a reformed wild-child, but Hawn doesn’t get enough to do, nor does the movie make a strong enough connection between Emily as she is and Linda as she was. It’s just a suggestion early on that never goes anywhere, which is a shame because building Emily’s arc around growing up enough to understand the responsibilities that changed her mother would solve the movie’s biggest problem: Its white savior complex.
As the title suggests, once in Ecuador Emily and Linda are snatched—kidnapped and held for ransom by a gangster called Morgado (Oscar Jaenada, who you can see dying on the inside as he has to play a very cheap stereotype). Emily and Linda manage an escape and while on the run, they take shelter with an indigenous tribe in the Amazon. Emily watches the women bringing water to their village, and eventually gets involved herself, and then ends up learning all her lessons and accomplishing all her growth because she discovers how rewarding it is to be a white blonde woman helping brown people. It’s as bad as it sounds.
So Snatched ends up being a mixed bag. The first half hour is GREAT, with Schumer playing her brand of “the way it really is” feminine gross-out humor, and Hawn reveling in Linda’s uptight weirdness. And the supporting cast is full of funny people (mostly) utilized well, including Wanda Sykes and Joan Cusack as a pair of intense tourists intent on helping Emily and Linda, and Christopher Meloni as a useless jungle guide. (Meloni is ALWAYS funny, but he’s not as well utilized here as he is in They Came Together.) Ike Barinholtz steals every scene he’s in as Emily’s co-dependent, agoraphobic brother—he’s so good, he’s entering Jason Mantzoukas territory as a secondary player who really needs his own movie.
But you can’t get away from the awfulness of the kidnap plot, with its racist stereotypes and white savior trope. There’s a smarter movie here, involving the alternate reality of Instagram and how that can screw up your real life, and the misunderstanding between a single mom and her spoiled daughter. Snatched lands on some funny bits, like Al Madrigal popping up as an inefficient consulate employee who wants to get rid of Emily before she exposes that he doesn’t know what he’s doing, but then it will see-saw back to stereotypes. It can’t maintain its rhythm and when it needs to go specific, it goes broad, like a gross-out gag featuring a tape worm that belongs in another (worse) movie entirely. It’s not a total loss, not with Schumer and Hawn, but given their talents, it should have been a whole lot better. Snatched will make you wince as much as it makes you laugh.