Snatched is what happens if you come up with a super-high-concept idea—Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn are a daughter and mother kidnapped in a foreign country!—and then stopped, pretty much cold, right there. The movie stretches and crawls and creaks its way barely past the 90-minute mark, gasping and coughing all the way.
Before my screening, Schumer and Hawn themselves, on screen, thanked the audience for watching the film in a theater, “the way it should be experienced,” as if we were watching Lawrence of Arabia or something. It is a movie in length, and really in length only. It feels like one of those ‘90s Touchstone Films comedies, like Big Business or Captain Ron, in which two funny people were thrown together, put in front of a camera, and told, “Fill the next 90 minutes.” (Hawn was in quite a few of those herself back then, actually.) The result is not entirely charmless; these are appealing people, after all. But this is as dashed off as dashed off gets.
Schumer plays the same character she played in Trainwreck, but a less interesting, more by-the-numbers one. Her Emily is a heavy-drinking narcissist who can’t get her life together, can’t get a relationship together, can’t hold a good job, all the usual signposts that were more sharply rendered by Schumer herself in the other film.
Her boyfriend (a funny Randall Park) breaks up with her right before they’re about to go on a romantic trip to Ecuador. Emily, jilted by all her friends, ends up asking her mother Linda (Hawn, in her first movie role in 15 years) to go with her. Once they arrive, they stray from their resort to follow a hunky local who has eyes on Emily, and they end up, as the title says, snatched. They are kidnapped. They escape. They run. They bicker. That’s the whole movie.
Director Jonathan Levine has made some interesting movies with a distinct off-kilter vibe in the past. (His big hit was The Wackness, but I was also a fan of his teen zombie comedy Warm Bodies.) But he’s purely doing grunt labor here, a studio hack job if there ever was one. The movie barely has the energy to even introduce its supporting characters or settings. At one point, Schumer passes out and wakes up in an entirely new Ecuadorian village, out of nowhere, with new characters and new stakes, and the movie never pauses to tell us what’s going on, or why.
The movie doesn’t care and doesn’t expect us to. It has no propulsive energy, no overarching point to make, and no reason to exist outside of its own basic concept. It doesn’t even do much to mock these pampered Americans who tromp around the world like they own it and then scream for help when they step one pace outside their comfort zone. They are meant to be the rooting interest, and the Ecuadorian culture is just a place for them to learn and love and laugh. The movie doesn’t seem to have taken a second pass at anything.
All that said, you can go a long way in a movie like this solely on the chemistry and charm of the stars—this is the point of having movie stars in super-high-concept comedies—and the movie wrings Schumer and Hawn for all they’re worth. Schumer is less appealing and less vital than she was in Trainwreck, but she still has her moments; she has a way of delivering an aside that makes her lines sing, like she’s having a running side commentary with the audience, or maybe just herself.
She also works well with a daffy supporting cast, including Wanda Sykes, a deranged Ike Barinholtz, Christopher Meloni, and, most of all, a mute former Army special ops veteran played by Joan Cusack, prone to cartwheels and certain advanced interrogation techniques. There’s a great spinoff movie to be made about Cusack as a Liam Neeson-esque Taken character, not saying a single word but killing all sorts of bad guys in faraway lands.
But the real joy is seeing Hawn back, who effortlessly steals every scene she’s in. Her character doesn’t make a lot of sense—she’s a cat lady, but she’s also an adventurer, but she’s also a shut-in, but she’s also calm in crisis, but she’s also overprotective and suffocating her children, but she’s also . . . and on and on. Still, Hawn somehow stitches together a slightly real human being out of it all.
Hawn remains a total natural, instantly empathetic and relatable, while also being a weirdo. I’m not sure why she picked this ramshackle movie to make her comeback, but I’m glad she did. It is a treasure to have her back, and hopefully it will inspire her to be in more movies in the coming years. Much, much better ones.
Grierson & Leitch write about the movies regularly and host a podcast on film. Follow them on Twitter @griersonleitch or visit their site griersonleitch.com. This is their final review for The New Republic. They’ve had a blast. Thank you.