Following the blatant wildness of his last movie, “The Night Before” (2015), director Jonathan Levine’s “Snatched” eases up on comic raunchiness, instead striving to be a wild, yet touching, take on a mother-daughter vacation gone wrong.
The beginning scenes show Emily Middleton (Amy Schumer, “Trainwreck”) preparing for her upcoming romantic getaway to South America with her boyfriend, Michael (Randall Park, “Trainwreck”). She’s promptly dumped, leaving her begging for her homebody mom (Goldie Hawn, “The Banger Sisters”) to fill the non-refundable space.
Hawn’s Linda Middleton reluctantly agrees, and the disastrous holiday ensues. Emily meets hot stranger James (Tom Bateman, “B&B”) at their resort, and she and her mother get kidnapped because that’s what happens when you try to have adventures with hot strangers in foreign countries. They ride around in trunks, accidentally kill South American mobsters and spend 20-ish minutes designing an escape with a useless and relatively unnecessary Christopher Meloni (“Holding Patterns”) — you know, vacation things.
Both leads are basic enough to be unsurprising — neither Emily nor Linda have the character depth to make the film complex — and the film doesn’t have the intricacy to make them any deeper. Schumer is the blunt force fans love her for being, playing the ditzy, social-media-obsessed gal who drinks too much and feels the need to yell everything. Hawn is the cautious mother, never taking risks and being overly-critical of her daughter’s life choices. They have their differences, they argue about these differences with harsh words and poorly-timed wisecracks in an underwhelming jungle scene, one of them sacrifices themselves to prove their love, their relationship is then fixed and they party together forever. Easy.
While the heart of the movie is in Emily and Linda, the film's supporting characters are arguably its best parts. Ike Barinholtz’s (“Storks”) Jeffrey Middleton, Emily’s agoraphobic and laughably charmless brother, sits at home, repeatedly harassing the State Department via telephone. His never-ending efforts to save his family, combined with the way he chirps “Mama” every 10 minutes, makes Barinholtz one of the brightest talents in the film. Perfectly understated, he earns himself a place among the top funniest actors on camera by not overdoing a plight to get there.
Ruth (Wanda Sykes, “Bad Moms”) and Barb (Joan Cusack, “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping”) are two platonic vacationers who meet the ladies at their resort. They’re eccentric and entirely neurotic, with Ruth barely introducing herself before rattling on about the statistics on being kidnapped. She’s funny, as is to be expected of Sykes’s characters, but next to Barb, it’s hard to concentrate on what she’s saying.
Maybe I’m just writing this because I’ve absolutely adored Joan Cusack ever since she tepidly flipped out over Stevie Nicks in “School of Rock,” but she was the funniest part of this film. An elusive badass, she has zero lines because Barb’s past involves her having cut her own tongue out after being tortured for information. It’s a dumb backstory in a dumb movie, and I loved it all. To compensate for her lack of talking, Cusack brings such a gusto to her ridiculously aggressive body language and contorted facial expressions. Silently, she renders the loudest laughs of everyone on screen.
Released Mother’s Day weekend, the main pitfall of “Snatched” is that it tries too hard to be more than just a kidnap romp. The focus of the movie is diluted, wanting to be Emily and Linda’s relationship yet overflowing with outrageous situations and the comedic life forces of its focal actors. Stirring lines are somewhat muddled by the brash wit that always seems to exude from Schumer, creating a few moments when the film was reaching too far to be heartwarming. The unbelievable situation these women are in lends itself to crafting a light-hearted summer flick. Sitting safely in this zone, it doesn’t need to strive to be anything bigger. It’s entertaining, and that’s enough.