They should have just stayed home. There was plenty of comedy to be found right there.
Ah, such a missed opportunity. The tantalizing enticement of Goldie Hawn pairing with Amy Schumer for a mother-daughter, road-trip buddy comedy has some moments, but never fulfills its promise.
As their onscreen adventures and antics grow zanier and broader, the laughs actually grow softer and more sporadic.
When Hawn and Schumer are playing verbal tennis, trading passive-aggressive criticisms along with genuinely affectionate observations as only a mother and her grown daughter can, it’s mainstream movie comedy at a high level — an absolute delight to witness.
When they’re slogging through the jungle, valiantly but unsuccessfully trying to wring laughs out of an unfunny, gross-out tapeworm sequence or involved in the 137th allegedly humorous slow-mo hero walk parody in recent movie history, we find ourselves wishing they’d found a better premise, a stronger script, sharper lines.
“Snatched” has Schumer playing a Comedy Lite variation on the character she so brilliantly portrayed in “Trainwreck” — one of my favorite performances in one of my favorite comedies in recent years. Her Emily Middleton is not particularly likable at first blush and also aimless, self-absorbed and without ambition.
In short order, Emily is fired from her retail job and dumped by her musician boyfriend just before their scheduled and non-refundable vacation to Ecuador. None of Emily’s friends take her up on the offer of a free trip, so Emily invites her divorced, cat-loving mother Linda (Hawn) to come along.
Here’s the thing though. Emily has such an off-putting personality we totally understand why she got fired, why she got dumped and why none of her friends would want to travel with her. Yes, that’s the launching point for any number of comedies in which the selfish lead becomes a better person after hitting rock bottom — but Emily’s growth is thinly sketched and implausible even in the context of a raunchy, R-rated film.
When Emily visits her mom at home and spars with her weirdo brother Jeffrey (the always likable Ike Barinholtz), who claims to be suffering from agoraphobia, calls his mother “Muh-MA” as if he’s 5 and pouts when the bread isn’t warm, that’s good stuff. When Emily makes a passionate, woman-power speech trying to convince her mother to come along on the vacation — it’s a well-played scene.
But once Emily and Linda are on vacation, most of the scenes feel forced and exaggerated.
Wanda Sykes has an over-the-top role as Ruth, a fellow vacationer who introduces herself to Emily and Linda at the resort and points out her friend Barb (Joan Cusack), a newly retired Special Ops operative who, we’re told, cut out her own tongue upon leaving the job so it would be impossible for her to spill any secrets no matter how severe the torture.
“But couldn’t they just force her to write down the information?” asks Emily, and that’s kind of funny, but it’s also a tipoff the story is about to go slapstick big.
Emily meets a dashing stranger named James (Tom Bateman), who sweeps her off her feet and takes her out for a night to remember. Like just about everything else that happens in “Snatched” from that point forward, James’ true purpose is easily discerned well before it’s revealed.
Soon thereafter, Emily and Linda find themselves in the clutches of the universally feared bad guy Morgado (Oscar Jaenada), a ponytailed villain who comes across as being slightly less menacing than an angry chef on a reality show.
As they escape and are caught again, escape and are caught again, mother and daughter deal with their long-simmering issues. The best relationship comedies produce genuinely effective dramatic moments as well. That’s not the case here.
Christopher Meloni pops in as the dashing, Indiana Jones-like Roger, a seemingly experienced guide who looks and talks like someone who has watched a LOT of movies about rogue American expatriates. Roger’s story arc is flat-out fantastic and funny. Too bad we didn’t have more of Roger.
Even at a running time of 91 minutes, “Snatched” feels stretched beyond its plot possibilities. The big action climax is not particularly well-conceived or well-staged, and the epilogue is equally unsatisfying.
If the filmmakers had placed Goldie Hawn and Amy Schumer on a set as mother and daughter, and had invited talents such as Barinholtz, Cusack, Sykes, Meloni et al., to stop by in character, and then encouraged everyone to improvise for 91 minutes, I’m thinking that might have been a more interesting movie than the wild and crazy jungle adventure of “Snatched.”
20th Century Fox presents a film directed by Jonathan Levine and written by Katie Dippold. Rated R (for crude sexual content, brief nudity, and language throughout). Running time: 91 minutes. Opens Friday at local theaters.