As the product of screenwriter Katie Dippold, best known for comedies like “The Heat” and “Parks and Recreation,” and director Jonathan Levine of the Golden Globe-nominated “50/50,” “Snatched” was positioned to achieve critical and commercial success on its opening weekend. Promoted as a must-see for Mother’s Day, “Snatched” stars stand-up comedian Amy Schumer and Hollywood veteran Goldie Hawn as a mother-daughter pair on the run from kidnappers. Despite high hopes for the film, however, “Snatched” falls short, failing to highlight the acting and directing chops of its critically acclaimed cast and crew.
The film chronicles the story of a family vacation gone wrong. After being dumped by her boyfriend the night before their vacation to Ecuador, self-absorbed millennial Emily Middleton, played by Schumer, convinces her cautious mother, played by Hawn, to take his place, arguing: “We’re going put the fun in non-refundable!” But Emily and her mother are kidnapped and find themselves caught up in a dangerous yet comedic jungle adventure as they attempt to find their way back to freedom.
The film attempts to accomplish too much in too short of a timespan, incorporating high-speed action sequences, comedic scenes and touching mother-daughter moments all within just 97 minutes. Although its main plot is centered on Emily and her mother’s misadventures, “Snatched” contains a number of subplots that add little to the story. For example, the film also focuses on Jeffrey, Emily’s brother from home — played by Ike Barinholtz of “The Mindy Project” and “Scrubs” — who tries to rescue his sister and mother by calling a member of the U.S. State Department.
Occasionally, the story shifts its focus to the movements of the men trying to hunt down Emily and her mother — although it is still unclear as to why the men so badly wanted to find them — or the happenings of two women Emily met at the hotel, who, for some inexplicable reason, are very invested in trying to help save Emily and her mother. The fact that these characters, despite only a brief introduction, somehow feel connected enough to the mother-daughter pair to risk their own lives may strike viewers as overly contrived — and simply too unrealistic.
Although the various scenes are slapped together somewhat haphazardly, the camerawork is incredible. Primarily shot in Hawaii, the film features beautiful panoramic views of lush forests, roads winding through the vibrant countryside and gorgeous sunrises and sunsets. The shots are crisp, colorful and visually appealing — arguably the best aspect of the film.
That being said, the film’s success as a comedy is questionable — the humor often feels awkward and misplaced, particularly in the context of kidnapping. Schumer’s character accidentally murders several people as she tries to escape, yet the film’s response to the situation is to make poorly executed jokes.
Although Schumer is known for her side-splitting hilarity and penchant for playing ditzy characters, her humor falls out of place in this film. When placed between a frightening kidnapping and multiple murders, in fact, Schumer’s one-liners even feel offensive; it is difficult to laugh at trivialities when the big picture is not very funny. Although marketed as a comedy, “Snatched” tries to be both hilarious and frightening at the same time, but fails in both respects — jokes never incite full-bellied laughter, and scary scenes never truly make heartbeats quicken.
Although the idea of this movie is good in theory, it follows too many storylines at once, and the result is a muddled mess. When the movie begins, it seems a simple comedy featuring an idyllic mother-daughter vacation, but things soon take a turn for the dramatic after the frightening kidnapping, and the genre begins to lean toward thriller. As the movie progresses, the focus begins to shift toward the relationship between Emily and her mother, emphasizing their emotional reconnection.
One of the most poorly executed aspects of “Snatched” is its soundtrack. Although the script and plot already have viewers on a veritable rollercoaster of dubious quality, the soundtrack only exaggerates the film’s high and low points. Instead of subtly adding to scenes, the music in this film is so overdone it almost seems to be a parody. In even the simplest of heartfelt moments, overly sentimental music begins to play loudly, highlighting the melodramatic story and script.
Overall, “Snatched” is a frustrating waste of resources. Although the camerawork is fantastic and the star-studded cast is extremely talented, the script is ineffective and the plot seems almost comically unrealistic. If this film had focused on succeeding as a comedy and created a more consistently funny script that downplayed the terror of the kidnapping, it could have been far more successful. Although Schumer will likely bounce back within a few months, this was, unfortunately, the first film that Hawn has done since 2002 — and certainly not her best work. Much like Emily and her mother’s trip, the movie ticket for “Snatched” does not quite put the “fun” in “refundable.” If you really love your mother, you will watch another movie with her.