Two comedians from different eras come together in “Snatched,” Jonathan Levine’s comedy about an American mother and daughter who are kidnapped while vacationing in Ecuador. The mom is Goldie Hawn, 71, who made a career out of playing ditzes with hidden reserves of pluck (“Foul Play,” “Private Benjamin”), while the daughter is Amy Schumer, 35, whose chosen persona is the big-city girl with hidden depths of insecurity (“Trainwreck”). With these gifted actresses, plus a script by Katie Dippold (the all-female “Ghostbusters” reboot), “Snatched” seems like a golden opportunity to observe how two generations of women relate and operate in a world still dominated by the opposite sex.
As it turns out, “Snatched” is a hit-and-miss affair driven by crude humor and rough slapstick. It’s fairly funny, but something about it feels disappointing. The combination of a classic star like Hawn, still luminous after a 15-year absence from the movies (her last was 2002’s “The Banger Sisters”), and a current cultural force like Schumer should have been a momentous occasion. Instead, it’s so-so entertainment.
The Rockville Centre-raised comic plays Emily Middleton, an irresponsible 30-something recently dumped by her indie-rocker boyfriend (Randall Park). In Ecuador, she flirts drunkenly with a handsome traveler (Tom Bateman), only to accidentally expose herself (twice); and as if being kidnapped weren’t indignity enough, her captors rifle through her purse and find her birth control. Emily is a quintessential Schumer role: empowered, liberated and constantly humiliated. Emily’s defense mechanism is her aggressive brand of off-color humor. Any joke you can make, she can make grosser, and she makes quite a few here.
By contrast, Hawn feels a little constricted in the role of Emily’s uptight mother, Linda, though she can still steal a scene just by arching an eyebrow. Filling in the gaps are a handful of fine supporting actors, including Ike Barinholtz as Emily’s agoraphobic brother, Jeffrey, and the enjoyably weird team of Wanda Sykes and Joan Cusack as two addle-headed commandos. It would have been nice if this film had freshened up its Hispanic stereotypes — Oscar Jaenada plays the mustachioed crime boss Morgado — but that might be asking too much.
“Snatched” deserves credit for avoiding one obvious trap: the romantic subplot. With its focus on mother-daughter camaraderie and the occasional gross-out gag, “Snatched” does what it sets out to do. It’s just hard not to wish that it tried to do more.
More comedic kidnapping movies
A kidnapping is the unlikely source of laughs in the Amy Schumer-Goldie Hawn movie, “Snatched.” Then again, other movies have also worked for laughs with a plot about someone being abducted. Here are four examples.
O. HENRY’S FULL HOUSE (1952) — Five of the famed New York City writer’s tales were featured in this anthology movie, including “The Ransom of Red Chief,” about two inept kidnappers (Fred Allen, Oscar Levant) whose abduction of a bratty kid backfires when the parents opt not to pay the ransom.
THE BIG LEBOWSKI (1998) — Jeff Bridges stars as the Dude, the ultimate slacker — and bowler — who becomes involved in a plot to rescue the trophy wife of the title character. A flop upon its release, the movie has since become a cult favorite.
TOY STORY (1999) — When Woody gets taken by an unscrupulous toy collector, it’s up to Buzz Lightyear and the rest of his playful pals to rescue him.
SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS (2012) — Not everyone who gets kidnapped is human. Sam Rockwell played a dognapper who makes the mistake of taking a gangster’s pet pooch, which lands him and his cohorts in a mess with the L.A. underworld.
— DANIEL BUBBEO