The promising young writer Katie Dippold, who wrote “The Heat” and “Ghostbusters,” strikes out with her third feature, “Snatched.”
This mother-daughter kidnapping comedy starring Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn is a huge disappointment, and for Schumer, this is a low moment of a career that’s been peaking. As Emily, Schumer plays her characteristic problematic white girl character, a selfish, selfie-taking narcissist. But there’s no sharp satire to puncture that image, as some of the best work from her Comedy Central show “Inside Amy Schumer” has managed to pull off.
Instead, “Snatched” feels like a rough sketch of a movie rather than a fleshed-out, joke-dense script. Perhaps it’s a bad match of writer and star, with Schumer and Dippold working together for the first time.
The story follows Emily, in the wake of a bad breakup, as she brings her mom, Linda, on a nonrefundable vacation to Ecuador, for lack of a better option (all of her friends seem to hate her). “Put the fun back in ‘nonrefundable,’” she whines to Linda, and one can’t help but wonder how an audience member might want to do the same.
On their second day in Ecuador, Emily manages to get herself and her mom kidnapped while trying to impress an attractive Brit, James (Tom Bateman). The two hapless blondes set off on an unlikely journey while trying to escape their captors, and along the way, learn a little something about themselves. The story has about as much suspense as it does laughs, which is to say: not much at all.
The script can’t decide whether we’re supposed to like Emily or hate her — she’s a bad person who treats her loved ones poorly, and leans on her perceived stupidity and naivete to make her way in the world. The film eventually abandons that thread, steering into girl-power territory and resolving the story with the message that women can rely on themselves, because men are usually either useless or evil.
That wavering is an issue with other aspects of the comedy, too; there’s one gross-out scene that feels out of place and cut too short to truly have impact. Directed by Jonathan Levine, “Snatched” lacks energy and punch. Scenes lag and go on way too long, the scene transitions are awkward and jarring. The entire thing feels like an outline of a movie, half-baked ideas that are never fully-formed.
From the premise, it seems as if “Snatched” might end up horribly racist. It does rely heavily on some really stale Latino stereotypes, and trots out a truly awful joke about what the word “welcome” might sound like with an accent. This is representative of the comedy in this film, which will make you say, “huh,” in recognition, rather than actually, you know, laugh.
More often than not, the movie paints white women in a bad light — as shallow, man-obsessed dolts who only care about performing their lives for social media. What’s offensive about “Snatched” is the dreadfully tired conceit it’s based on, that these women are self-obsessed creatures who believe themselves to be in constant danger of kidnapping, rape or human trafficking from foreigners. There’s no way to freshen up a concept that feels about a century old, even with a cheap sheen of female empowerment.
☆☆ out of 5
Cast: Amy Schumer, Goldie Hawn, Ike Barinholtz, Wanda Sykes, Joan Cusack, Tom Bateman.
Director: Jonathan Levine.
Running time: 1:31.
Rated: R, for crude sexual content, brief nudity, and language throughout.