We’ve been reporting on Snatched for a couple years now, but I’m still surprised that it took so long for a studio to make a hard-R comedy featuring a mother and daughter. The hard-R comedy is a fairly reliable and cost-efficient genre, and as we’ve seen from the success of films like Bad Moms and The Heat, audiences want to see talented women be raunchy and funny. Thankfully, Snatched lives up to its concept due to its fantastic cast, skillful blend of dumb and dark humor, and the heartwarming chemistry between leads Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn. Snatched doesn’t exceed expectations, but my expectations were already pretty high.
Emily Middleton (Schumer) isn’t doing too well. She just got fired from her low-wage job, her boyfriend dumped her to sleep with other women, and no one wants to go with her on her non-refundable trip to Ecuador. Her mother, Linda (Hawn), isn’t doing much better as she’s settled into a solitary life caring for her cats and agoraphobic adult son Jeffrey (Ike Barinholtz). When Emily discovers some old photo albums that show her mother being more adventurous, she corrals Linda into coming on the trip. However, their relationship ends up being tested when, not long after arriving in Ecuador, they’re kidnapped and forced to find their way to the American embassy.
Looking at the entirety of Snatched, it’s admittedly a bit predictable, and that predictability is reassuring. The movie even opens with text letting you know that when it comes to the bad things that happen, it’s from our protagonists inflicting punishment on their captors rather than vice-versa. You also know (assuming you’ve seen movies before) that although the bond between Emily and Linda is strained, it will be repaired over the course of the movie. When they bump into tourist Ruth (Wanda Sykes) at the resort and Ruth mentions that her partner Barb (Joan Cusack) used to be in special-ops, you know that’s going to come back later. Snatched is not a movie that’s trying to upend conventions, and the plot is a serviceable vehicle for the humor, which works wonderfully.
The movie is at its best when it’s dumb and dark. Whenever characters are being stupid and things go horribly awry is when the film had me laughing the hardest. There’s one point where a character played by Christopher Meloni shows up, and while you can see what’s going to happen to him from a mile away, I still almost passed out from laughing so hard. Snatched is filled with these moments where suffering is played for maximum comedy, and director Jonathan Levine knows how to play the scene beautifully without turning it into a cartoon.
That’s because the emotional core of the movie—the relationship between Emily and Linda—holds strong throughout the picture. The comedy comes from their strained bond rather than exploiting it or ditching it when it becomes inconvenient. Katie Dippold’s script leans into the frustration felt from both sides. Emily feels like her mother’s criticisms are flat-out insulting, and Linda feels like Emily has never really grown up. While you know that their bond will be repaired and become strengthened by their ordeal, the chemistry between Schumer and Hawn sells it, and I hope this isn’t the last time we see them together on screen.
The movie also features an outstanding supporting cast. Barinholtz, Sykes, Cusack, Meloni and Bashir Salahuddin, who plays a beleaguered State Department official, all threaten to walk away with the movie. There’s not a weak link in Snatched, and everyone gets a chance to shine whether it’s Barinholtz hammering his unique pronunciation of “Mama” or Meloni making a mockery of every Indiana Jones wannabe or Cusack wordlessly showing that she deserves a spinoff where she plays a former special-ops agent.
Snatched won’t upend the R-rated comedy genre, nor is it trying to. It knows its wants to be an R-rated mother-daughter comedy complete with dark comedy and gross-out humor. Everyone acquits themselves well, and while it may not be a game-changer, it shouldn’t have to be. It’s a painfully funny comedy that has a good heart at its center. That’s more than enough.