Now that the ubiquitous ad campaign for Snatched has ceased and the film proper has hit theaters, it’s a pleasure to report that, in addition to no longer having to endure its trailer before every feature not rated G, the film’s headliner Amy Schumer is far more tolerable than she was in the deplorable Trainwreck.
Credit goes to director Jonathan Levine (50/50; The Night Before), who keeps his riff-happy leada good deal more focused on scripted jokes than usual, a pleasant surprise seeing as the screenplay is by Katie Dippold (Ghostbusters; The Heat).
In other words, if you’ve ever doubted the negative impact Paul Feig has on his films, doubt no more.
Schumer stars as Emily Middleton, a stuck-in-a-rut Millennial who loses her retail job and rock star boyfriend (Randall Park) on the same day – or at least within consecutive scenes. She’s also obsessed with social media, a character flaw that works well without commentary but inevitably inspires lame vocal messages about living one’s life instead of merely having an online presence.
Having booked a non-refundable vacation for two to an Ecuadorian resort, Emily looks in vain for a travel companion and during a trip to her childhood home decides her safety-conscious mom Linda (Goldie Hawn) is the best candidate and somehow convinces her to tag along.
Within seconds of Hawn’s giddy first scene, it’s clear that Snatched will be ruled by its supporting players, whose grounded sense of humor provides a more appealing alternative to Schumer’s slapstick-reliant outrageous style.
Fortifying this cause is Ike Barinholtz as Linda’s agoraphobic, live-at-home son Jeffrey, who gets a ton of mileage out of referring to his housemate as Mámá, suggesting French Muzzy tapes may be a part of his daily routine.
Down in South America, a reliably sassy Wanda Sykes and a mute Joan Cusack get in on the good times as platonic travel companions who can’t take a hint, and while hunky fellow traveler James (Tom Bateman) for whom Emily falls sadly lacks a funny bone, those who pop up once he arranges for Emily and Linda to be kidnapped for ransom more than make up the difference.
Christopher Meloni is fully committed in his limited screen time as a would-be Indiana Jones type who aids the mother-daughter team’s flight to safety and Cusack earns steady laughs as her characters’ Special Ops past comes in handy, but the film’s leader in scenes stolen is the magnificent Bashir Salahuddin as State Department employee Morgan Russell.
In fielding separate phone calls from Emily and Jeffrey, he offers the absolute minimal help, hilariously refusing to go the extra mile for a U.S. citizen in peril.
Eventually worn down by a frantically persistent Jeffrey, Morgan makes the mistake of letting the civilian into an agency surveillance room and, as Levine stylistically mimics a particularly thrilling moment from Enemy of the State or the Jason Bourne films and Jeffrey barks out orders like he’s in command, the true agent promptly shuts him down to uproarious ends.
Back in the jungle, Schumer and Hawn’s rapport is generally enough to move their adventures along as a pleasant clip, and despite some suspect special effects and a wholly predicable ending, it’s all fairly entertaining.
Grade: B-minus. Rated R. Now playing at AMC Classic, Biltmore Grande and Carolina Cinemark
**What Next? and Dinner Party Fodder for Snatched: bonus insight and follow-up film suggestions, available exclusively to patrons.**
(Photo: 20th Century Fox)