Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn have a lot riding on their disposable-but-funnier-than-expected comedy, “Snatched.”
Schumer wants to prove her $100 million hit debut “Trainwreck” wasn’t merely a fluke. Oscar-winning co-star Hawn hopes she made the right choice to return to acting after a 15-year “retirement.” (Amusing that her film should open the weekend following “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” which features longtime partner Kurt Russell.)
The two generations of comedians both capitalize on depicting directionless, self-absorbed blondes with relationship issues. Schumer may dispense the raunchier punchlines, but Hawn grounds the movie, preventing an exaggerated situation from succumbing to its own silliness.
Emily (Schumer) realizes her bar band boyfriend (Randall Park) speaks the truth when he dumps her because, “You don’t have any direction in life.” It certainly puts a crimp in their upcoming, nonrefundable vacation to Ecuador.
Now she has no companion, no job and no goals — other than taking plenty of selfies where she pretends to be enjoying herself.
She decides to visit her divorced mom, Linda (Hawn), an anxiety-ridden 71-year-old who spends days looking up articles such as “How to cheer up a depressed cat.” She also plays nursemaid to loser son Jeffrey (Ike Barinholtz of “Neighbors”), an agoraphobic piano teacher who still calls her “ma-mah.”
Then Emily finds a scrapbook showcasing Linda’s fabulous past (with real pics of Hawn in her glory years). Is Mom actually pathetic, or has she simply gone dormant? Emily decides to find out by asking Linda to join her on the jaunt to South America.
She pleads, “Help me put the fun in nonrefundable.”
The tropical trip doesn’t go quite as planned, devolving into a kidnapping, prison cells, degradation, parasites and “the reckless disregard for human life.”
The premise of “Snatched” comes across as standard Hollywood fare: Mismatched cohorts find common ground during a difficult journey. The cast saves it.
Schumer excels at portraying a mix of brazen and defeated. Her best moments involve her self-imposed humiliation, as when a handsome English tourist (Tom Bateman) whom she’s flirting with spots Emily cleaning her lady parts through an open bathroom door. Often hilarious, this shtick is also a blatant retread of her “Trainwreck” character.
Meanwhile, decked in an “Hola!” T-shirt and sensible shoes, Hawn attempts to play Linda as a real individual. The setup implies she’s a crazy cat lady, yet the story’s progression reveals her to be decent and levelheaded. Had she taken the same zany route as Schumer, the movie might have become cartoonish.
An additional pairing provides almost as many zingers. Brother Jeffrey contacts a State Department official (Bashir Salahuddin) to help extract his imperiled family, only to be stonewalled at every turn. This compels the bungling manchild — who can’t speak Spanish but is fluent in Klingon — to attempt one miserable tactic after another to earn the official’s attention.
He recognizes his last hope is to exploit the lone thing he’s great at: being annoying.
Writer Katie Dippold has built a career blending female empowerment with slapstick, as in the “Ghostbusters” remake and “The Heat.” Teamed with director Jonathan Levine (“Warm Bodies”), she alters the expected story beats just enough to keep the proceedings unpredictable — and cover the plot holes.
Dippold’s “girl power” dynamic also distracts from the rampant xenophobia of the tale, which relies on unnecessary stereotypes. Will there ever be a comedy set in South America that doesn’t involve drug cartels?
Fortunately, Schumer, Hawn and some key supporting actors inject just enough goofy fun into this nonrefundable ticket.
Jon Niccum is a filmmaker, freelance writer and author of “The Worst Gig: From Psycho Fans to Stage Riots, Famous Musicians Tell All.”
Rated R for crude sexual content, brief nudity and language throughout.