Film Review: Snatched

Has all the right components but never quite snatches greatness.
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The great Goldie Hawn comes out of retirement for Jonathan Levine’s mother-daughter comedy Snatched, and…man, could we invent a time machine and have a do-over on this one? Hawn deserves better material for her big comeback.

Snatched isn’t a bad film, per se. What it is is rote and only intermittently amusing, with most of the chuckles coming from the supporting characters, not the central duo of Hawn and Amy Schumer.

Schumer goes back to the “messy, self-absorbed, irresponsible” character well for Emily Middleton, a shiftless thirty-something who has no other option than to take her fussy, fearful mother (Hawn) on vacation to Ecuador after her boyfriend (Randall Park) unexpectedly dumps her. It’s not necessarily a bad thing that Schumer has a character type that she sticks to; plenty of standup comedians-turned-actors, from Kevin Hart to Adam Sandler to Tina Fey, do the same. But the shtick feels stale here. We’ve seen this all before from Schumer, and better, as in Judd Apatow’s Trainwreck.

What we didn’t see in Trainwreck was Schumer’s character accidentally murdering several people, which happens here after Emily and Linda are kidnapped and held for ransom by a Colombian gang. The ensuing shenanigans have their fair share of comedy, with Christopher Meloni’s khaki-clad adventurer and Joan Cusack as a mute, grimacing ex-Special Ops agent providing particularly welcome diversions. (I’d be OK if Meloni and Cusack were in every movie from here on out.) Ike Barinholtz and Bashir Salahuddin are also standouts in the stateside B-plot, which sees Emily’s agoraphobic brother (Barinholtz) trying to convince an increasingly exasperated State Department employee (Salahuddin) to send in the full might of Uncle Sam to rescue his beloved “Muh-mah.”

Unfortunately, when proceedings get back to Emily and Linda, Snatched stalls. Levine has a way of blending pathos with wacky comedy in a way that never quite lands. The comic bits are fine, though one wishes Levine would take them further. But heartstrings remain decidedly untugged by the relationship between the hot-mess daughter and her overly critical but well-meaning mother. The characters are too by-the-book—and, not for nothing, casually racist, which is something Snatched never attempts to subvert.

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