Amy Schumer bungles through the jungle, laughing all the way
“Snatched,” an occasionally lazy but fitfully funny and generally pleasing comedy starring Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn, is a good news/bad news proposition. But in terms of providing an hour or so of escapist respite, it gets the job done.
At a time when gloom, doom and constitutional crises dominate the headlines, who couldn’t use a few laughs?
Schumer plays Emily Middleton, who as “Snatched” begins is in a boutique looking for something to wear on her upcoming vacation in Ecuador. That scene winds up on a punchline that sets the tone for a film that’s less an organic, humanscale story than a series of comic pins carefully set up to be knocked down.
Within minutes of that opening bit, Emily is being dumped by her musician boyfriend (played by “Fresh Off the Boat’s” Randall Park) After asking her friends to take his place on the trip and being turned down, she decides to invite her mother Linda (Hawn), whose hobbies include cats, catering to her agoraphobic son (Ike Barinholtz) and worrying about everything.
At first, Linda refuses Emily’s request to “help me put the ‘fun’ in ‘nonrefundable.’” But she eventually gives in, and soon this motherdaughter odd couple is bickering poolside at a fancy Ecuadoran hotel.
Emily meets a handsome stranger (Tom Bateman) who seems too good to be true, and is: After an idyllic date on his motorcycle, he takes both women out for a day trip that ends with them being kidnapped and thrown into a dank cell with bloodstained walls and a scorpion in the corner.
Written by Katie Dippold (“Ghostbusters”) and directed by Jonathan Levine (“50/50”),
“Snatched” follows a familiar playbook for modern comedies, which depend less on verbal wit and observational insights than silly jokes, coarse badinage, bawdy physical comedy and at least one cringeworthy gross-out gag. That box gets checked late in the movie, after Emily and Linda have gotten into — and escaped from — any number of life-threatening scrapes. The film’s other signature scene occurs earlier, when Emily is caught in a compromising position in the ladies’ room of a bar, preparing herself for what she hopes will turn out to be a hot date.
In between those set pieces, Barinholtz’s nerdy man-child pesters a long-suffering State Department official (played with on-point exasperation by Bashir Salahuddin), and the women cross paths with a swashbuckling Amazon adventurer, portrayed by Christopher Meloni channeling his best “Indiana Jones”-era Harrison Ford.
The portrayal of South American culture in “Snatched” veers from offensive to patronizing, when Emily and Linda stumble upon an indigenous village that is used as a convenient backdrop for an anodyne feminist statement. Schumer, whose self-awareness is her secret weapon — and helped make “Trainwreck” the transcendent romantic comedy that it was — here wants to have it both ways, daring the audience to reject the crudest clichés the movie indulges, but making sure to soften her own image to make her character more relatable.
Sadly, while Schumer finds her groove, Hawn is wasted in a role illsuited to the vibrant, bubbly comedian that a generation of fans know and still recognize underneath the tan and motherly neurosis.
Here, she’s forced to play straight woman and scold to Schumer’s raunchy free spirit, bumbling her way through life-or-death confrontations and her own budding cultural sensitivity.
No one will ever credit “Snatched” with discovering new comic territory. But it earns its share of laughs by covering some well-trod ground.
Goldie Hawn, right, and Amy Schumer in a scene from “Snatched.”