Wacky it certainly is. And in theory, Snatched might have been great: a buddy comedy with the buddies in question being a mother and a daughter. That most classic of American tales—the road trip story—starring two very funny and talented actors. Adventure, gorgeous scenery, casual feminism, the triumphant cinematic return of Goldie Hawn: Add some rum, blend it up, and you have a reliable recipe for some frothily dizzying summer comedy.
And yet. “I’m not having any fun,” Linda Middleton (Hawn) complains, at one point in Snatched, to her daughter Emily (Schumer), and you can’t help but sympathize with the poor woman: Snatched is a comedy about kidnapping that has also managed to abscond with the laughter.
Things start innocuously enough: Emily is, indeed, the typically Schumerian character: fun-loving, self-absorbed, clueless, sweet, terrible. Having been broken up with by her boyfriend (Fresh Off the Boat’s Randall Park) just before the two were set to embark on a beach vacation at a resort in Ecuador, Emily convinces her overprotective mother to go with her on the trip in his place. (“We’re gonna put the fun in non-refundable!” is the argument that wins over the tightly wound Linda—after Emily’s insistence that they vacation for “all the single ladies, because it’s upon their shoulders that I’m standing!” fails to do the trick.)
So the Americans arrive in Ecuador, and immediately start bickering about the amount of fun they are going to have together on their non-refundable South American adventure. And then Emily meets James, a charming, smarmy Brit (Tom Bateman). He offers to take Emily and Linda out to explore the area beyond the beach resort. The audience is expected to intuit that this a very bad idea. “Emily, I am not strolling in Ecuador at night,” Linda protests, before her daughter convinces her to do just that—and, as it turns out, the mother is correct to fear the world beyond the Americanized resort: Leaving the safe confines of manufactured fun does prove dangerous for the pair. In short order, the vacationers are roofied, and kidnapped, and kept by their captors in a makeshift and scorpion-ridden cell—as the kidnappers inform Linda’s son and Emily’s brother, the shut-in Jeffrey (Ike Barinholtz), that they will not be released until he pays them $100,000.
From there, it’s a cat-and-mouse chase: The women escape, and are captured again, and escape again, and are captured again. It’s a frenetic, confusing journey, too, with the women ending up in Colombia, and then going from town to jungle, with a series of captors, some of whom re-appear and some of whom do not. Very little is explained. But, of course, the details don’t matter much, not just because this isn’t a think-y film, but also because the journey is the destination, and the women, in it, learn so much along the way—if not about the world, then about themselves. Think that, come the end of the movie, each one will have found the inner strength that she never knew she possessed? Think that mother and daughter will have come to value each other as people, and that their relationship will have been renewed? Think that the natives they encounter along the way, in towns and in jungles, will have helped them along in their journey to self-discovery?