If you’re like me, when you watched the trailer for Snatched, the new Amy Schumer–Goldie Hawn comedy about a mother-daughter duo who set out for a South American vacation and promptly get kidnapped, you felt that inescapable twinge that comes with being a sentient moviegoer who regularly spends time on the backlash-happy internet of 2017. It wasn’t a question of Is this going to be offensive? but How offensive is this going to be?
So there’s no use beating around the bush: How offensive is this movie? I’m gonna say midperiod Adam Sandler. It shouldn’t spark a full-on racism controversy like some of Sandler’s more recent work, but it’s got enough stereotyping—including the implication that if you visit South America you might get a disgusting giant tapeworm that can only be removed by dangling a giant chunk of raw meat above your throat—that you’ll leave the theater assured of Hollywood’s continued allegiance to the belief that all broad comedies should include at least a little broadly comic racism.
Surprisingly, though, while you’re waiting for Snatched to appall you, it turns out to be a pretty darn enjoyable movie, one that’s winning, sweet at times, and consistently very funny. Both its writer, Katie Dippold, and director, Jonathan Levine, have notably nonhorrible résumés; Dippold wrote The Heat and co-wrote last summer’s Ghostbusters reboot while Levine is responsible for such above-average comedies as The Night Before and 50/50.
And then there’s its star. By virtue of being a woman in the public eye, and through her own imperfect choices and statements, Amy Schumer is subject to seemingly daily evaluations on the “What lady does America hate most today?” scale, where she usually hovers somewhere between Lena Dunham and Kellyanne Conway. With any luck, though, you don’t hate Amy Schumer, and you maybe even like her, because Snatched is a showcase for Amy Schumer. What it lacks in plot and character development it makes up … in Amy Schumer. Schumer plays Emily Middleton, a woman who loses her retail job and her boyfriend in the first few minutes of the movie and decamps to wallow with her mother, Linda (played by Hawn).
There’s not much to know about Emily, no big dreams or ambitions or personal obstacles. Her primary attributes are that she’s an Amy Schumer type (bawdy, self-deprecating, by turns wicked and pathetic, shallow, and prone to getting sloshed) and that she has two nonrefundable tickets to Ecuador. This unfortunately leaves Hawn, whom Schumer ropes into joining her with a hilarious faux-feminist empowering speech that bids them to rally for “all the single ladies,” to play the straight man. Ugh. It should be a girl-movie rule, as ironclad as “nobody puts Baby in a corner”: Nobody makes Goldie play the straight man. She’s fine as an uptight mom who loves cats and her children and is afraid of vacations that haven’t been planned two years in advance, and she has some genuinely touching moments. But making us wait 15 years for a Goldie Hawn comeback and then not letting her match Schumer wisecrack for wisecrack, physical goof for physical goof, feels cruel. (Meanwhile, supporting performers such as Ike Barinholtz, Wanda Sykes, and Joan Cusack play their weirdo roles for all they’re worth.)
So there they are at a resort in Ecuador, where boring Linda barely wants to leave her hotel room while Emily wants to wild out: “hair, makeup, boobs,” the whole thing. Soon Emily meets a hot guy who promises to take them on a day trip, and Linda, feeling guilty, goes along with it, but whoops, they wind up kidnapped by a gang of criminals who we never learn much about. They take Linda and Emily to Colombia and are very dangerous, not that most of Colombia or Ecuador is dangerous, the film vaguely gestures at saying.
You’ll appreciate the movie’s tendency to zig when you think it will zag. For example, you’ve no doubt seen countless scenes in movies starring men like the one where Emily runs to the bathroom to ready herself for a night out that could result in a hookup: She sniffs her armpits and decides they could use a quick-and-dirty sink-and–paper towel cleanup. Her gaze drifts to her crotch; she decides that could use a splash of water, too. The resulting set of gags are not only funny, they’re surprising, in great part because women don’t get as many opportunities as men to use and overuse all the tricks in the gross-out handbook.
I’ve always appreciated the way Schumer mines comedy from the nitty-gritty of being a woman and all its attendant indignities. As in her Comedy Central sketch show, Schumer knows how to zero in on the seemingly small details of female life to reveal the larger double standards. There’s a joke in the movie about how Schumer and Hawn aren’t young and attractive enough to worry about being sold into sex slavery; it’s not the kind of thing anyone would say in mixed company, since obviously sex slavery is an unspeakably horrible fate, but it’s also a commentary on how society thinks of women, as either potential sex slaves or irrelevant, so please don’t shoot Schumer for being willing to go there. Seeing the female experience reflected back this way can be embarrassing, and exhilarating. So I loved her character’s constant low-grade annoyance with her mother, I loved when she made an uncouth remark about how a tapeworm helped her lose weight, and I loved watching her hair get progressively frizzier as her straits got increasingly dire.
Emily would surely roll her eyes and make a jack-off gesture to hear me posit that Snatched is in some small way political because it’s about women’s lives. But it is a big summer comedy headlined by two women, and that’s a rarer thing than it ought to be in Hollywood. By its very existence, it’s sort of a feminist project, even if it’s way too unserious ever to consider itself such. I’ll just say that you and your mom might like it more than King Arthur: Legend of the Sword this Mother’s Day weekend.