By Michael Phillips 2017-08-11

Chicago Tribune

2 stars

An action comedy about white women beset by brown men in Latin American countries portrayed by Hawaii, "Snatched" is Amy Schumer's second big movie, her follow-up to the very funny "Trainwreck," which introduced her to audiences unfamiliar with her stand-up or her TV work on "Inside Amy Schumer." The film co-stars Goldie Hawn, in her first major screen role since "The Banger Sisters" 15 years ago. Shrewdly, 20th Century Fox is positioning their product as a Mother's Day weekend offering; what better way to market it? Mother. Daughter. Kidnapped by Ecuadorean ransom-seekers while on vacation. They get stuffed in a car trunk; they harpoon a bad guy; they dance; they learn to take it easy on each other.

The movie does not take it easy. Director Jonathan Levine ("50/50," "The Night Before") has skill, but broad visual gags aren't really his strength. Screenwriter Katie Dippold wrote "The Heat," the one with Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy (sequel coming), which pulled a successful variation on a familiar odd-couple theme. "Snatched," more about victimhood than women running their own show, is funny here and there, but in ways that make the bulk of the formulaic material all the more frustrating.

Stiffed by her boyfriend (Randall Park) on the eve of their nonrefundable Ecuador getaway, directionless, hard-drinking Emily (Schumer) invites her cat-obsessed suburban shut-in of a mother (Hawn) on the trip instead. Mother Linda's fears of abduction come true soon enough, though Emily's too smitten by the flirtatious Englishman (Tom Bateman) on vacation to sense trouble. "Snatched" engineers ways to get Emily and Linda in danger and then out again, evading their kidnapper (Oscar Jaenada, stereotypical swarthy menace incarnate) as best they can, while back home Emily's agoraphobic brother (Ike Barinholtz) nudges a skeptical U.S. State Department in the rescue of his family.

If you're going to write a movie like this one, you're going to try to invent ways and means of pushing the story forward without your audience getting that weary, back-to-the-kidnapping-stuff feeling. I had that feeling a lot during "Snatched." You sense the relief on Dippold's behalf every time she gets the chance to ditch what's "required" and focus on what's amusing, or offbeat. Wanda Sykes and Joan Cusack make for entertaining side players as a couple of vacationers who come in handy plotwise; Christopher Meloni scores a laugh or two as a would-be adventurer who serves as Emily and Linda's guide through the jungles of Colombia. "Feel free to drink from any puddle you see," he says at one point. "All water in the jungle is safe." The jokes are sardonic 21st century variations on "Don't Drink the Water," sometimes literally.

It's extremely broad humor, for the most part, nervously edited, involving the extraction of a vicious-looking tapeworm from Emily's throat, or Emily makeshift-douching herself in a restroom, preparing for a possible hookup with her English friend. Hawn does not easily suggest a paranoid lonelyheart with bad knees, as the script dictates, but she and Schumer parallel-play together, affectionately. "Snatched" is too busy with everything around, and outside, this central relationship. In that regard it resembles the Tina Fey/Steve Carell action comedy "Date Night," which got by with audiences despite itself. We'll see about this one; it is, after all, opening on Mother's Day weekend.

MPAA rating: R (for crude sexual content, brief nudity, and language throughout).

Running time: 1:30

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