Why aren’t there more zany comedies about blond women being kidnapped by human traffickers while vacationing in South America? Seems like a goldmine. Anyway, “Snatched” is here to remedy that lack, to provide Amy Schumer with a follow-up to her breakout hit “Trainwreck,” and to bring Goldie Hawn back to the screen after a 15-year absence. That’s a lot of responsibility for one movie, and this one is bogged down by formula, but it mostly succeeds.
Schumer plays Emily Middleton, a directionless, self-absorbed woman-child who is dumped by her equally shallow boyfriend (Randall Park) just before their planned trip to Ecuador. The tickets being nonrefundable, and Emily having no one else in her life who can stand her, she persuades her cautious mother, Linda (Hawn), to come along, despite her mom-like fear of everything.
Upon arrival at the resort, the two have the expected mother-daughter conflicts: Linda wants to slather Emily in sunscreen; Emily wants to hook up with a handsome local (Tom Bateman); Linda wants to stay indoors and read a book; Emily wants to sight-see; etc. There’s a great joke revolving on the Ecuadorian pronunciation of the word “welcome.” Wanda Sykes and Joan Cusack appear as an experienced pair of travelers who warn of the dangers lurking everywhere, almost but not quite parodying U.S. xenophobia about South America.
But then, as foretold by the title, Emily and Linda are abducted by a generic, thin-mustached baddie named Morgado (Oscar Jaenada) and held for ransom. This unfortunately depends on Emily’s brother, Jeffrey (Ike Barinholtz), an agoraphobic mama’s boy who persistently, gratingly, amusingly calls Linda “mamá,” with the accent on the second syllable.
A mother and daughter being menaced by henchmen while chained up in an Ecuadorean shack sounds like icky territory for a comedy, so I was relieved when they escaped almost immediately. From an audience perspective, being on the run is less threatening, easier to enjoy. It gives the ladies some room to breathe, bicker, and bond, and a chance to meet characters like Roger Simmons (Christopher Meloni), a self-style roguish adventurer who pledges to get them to safety through a part of the Amazon jungle known as “the sac of the jaguar,” but, uh, does not.
The screenplay is by Katie Dippold, who wrote “The Heat” and co-wrote last year’s “Ghostbusters.” Contrary to what you’d think given those credits, “Snatched” isn’t a showcase for the duo of Schumer & Hawn, but rather a solo comedy — a showcase for Schumer and whoever happened to play her mother. Hawn is fine, and it’s great to see her again, but she’s written primarily as the straight man. It’s Schumer who gets most of the laughs, and Emily who gets the character arc.
Those laughs are plentiful, though, and amplified by the funny supporting characters who wander in and out. Director Jonathan Levine (“50/50,” “The Wackness”) manages several well-executed visual gags (the best involves a bathroom door and a treasonous mirror), mining every facet of the situation — mom and daughter vacationing; daughter embarrassed; foreigners scary — for as much comedy as he can find. Naturally, it all boils down to a simple message about how you gotta love yer mom even when she bugs you, and how she’s probably right about whatever she’s telling you not to do. Moms are great, right? Can’t think of anyone I’d rather be kidnapped with.
B (1 hr., 31 min.; )