‘Snatched’ Turns Kidnapping Into a Laugh Riot

Snatched

It’s been 15 years since Goldie Hawn last starred in a major motion picture. Finally, the Hollywood legend is returning from her hiatus to star opposite Amy Schumer in the new comedy Snatched. Directed by The Night Before’s Jonathan Levine and written by Ghostbusters Katie Dippold, Snatched bucks a trend of underwhelming studio comedies with its laugh-a-minute pacing that never overstays its welcome as it runs at a brisk 90 minutes of familial gags and outlandish situations.

Emily Middleton (Schumer) is a selfish person living in New York City and only concerned with her pleasure within her own personal bubble of solipsism. When we first see her, she’s talking about her upcoming trip to Ecuador which she’s taking with her boyfriend, a musician on the rise. Of course, she’s not talking to a friend while shopping for clothes, she’s talking to a customer at her job and her uninterested attitude gets her fired. Then she meets her boyfriend Michael (Randal Park), who dumps her before they’re to leave on their vacation. Emily’s attempts to find a friend to take her up on a free ticket to Ecuador yield no takers.

Emily’s mother Linda (Hawn) lives with her agoraphobic adult son Jeffrey (Ike Barinholtz) and tends to her numerous cats in her suburban home. Linda has never remarried and is excessively cautious in her life, constantly checking that the multiple locks on her doors are secure. When Emily visits her mother, it’s not long before the daughter is inspired to take her mother on the trip to Ecuador, though Linda isn’t exactly eager to leave her comfortable bubble. Eventually, Linda agrees to go after Emily pressures her with the information that the tickets are non-refundable. At the resort, Linda stays shielded from the sun and has no desire to leave the confines of the beachside property while Emily is eager to drink and see the surroundings. One night, Emily meets James (Tom Bateman) over drinks and the two hit it off. The next morning, James will take Emily and her mother on a tour of the countryside. However, along the way they’re targeted and kidnapped, confirming all of Linda’s worst fears. Once they’ve made their escape from their captors, Linda and Emily must traverse the Amazon in order to reach Bogota and the American embassy in order to get them home safely.

What helps Snatched work so well is the fact that the screenplay by Katie Dippold clearly defines the dynamic between the mother and daughter at the heart of the film. Schumer leans in on the persona of a selfish party girl and Hawn is clearly the nervous mother. There’s a real chemistry between Schumer and Hawn that brings a credibility to the relationship, and it allows Jonathan Levine to build upon the dynamic and continually insert oddball supporting characters and gags that never distract from the story or the central characters. Snatched features an assortment of gags that continually deliver the laughs, from gross out jokes, clever dialogue, and physical comedy.

The supporting characters garner as many laughs as the leading duo. Wanda Sykes and a wordless Joan Cusack bring a lot laughs in their short screen time. Ike Barinholtz is hilarious as the agoraphobic brother and his role only grows in hilarity once he starts hounding the even-keeled State Department employee Morgan Russell (Bashir Salahuddin). Every supporting actor is great but none steal the show like Christopher Meloni as an American expat with a keen knowledge of the harsh terrain of the Amazon. There are very few stretches of Snatched that fail to invoke large guffaws of laughter, and each of the supporting cast members do their job to keep the laughs coming.

Snatched is the first really good comedy of 2017, with a consistency that it’s always getting solid laughs from its wild premise. It’s also very sharp at not portraying the South American nations as a hotbed of rampant criminality, something minor but worth mentioning. Snatched is a much more disciplined comedy that Schumer’s last leading role in Trainwreck and it’s a pleasure to see Goldie Hawn bringing her impeccable comedic timing back to the big screen.  In an era where so many comedies are dominated by improvisation that causes bloated running times that undermine comedic impact, it’s so refreshing to see a comedy working on the level of Snatched, doing each and everything you’d want a studio comedy to do. Let’s hope they don’t try to ruin it with a sequel, because it’s perfectly fine as is.

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