Amy Schumer, the comic vulgarian whose every utterance is a “Vagina Monologue,” seems somewhat defanged in “Snatched,” her sophomore outing as a movie star.
It’s “Romancing the Stone” with semen jokes and feminine hygiene sight gags and exposed breasts as punch lines.
Like Melissa McCarthy, looking for mainstream middlebrow amusement with “Tammy,” Schumer has chosen a formula “buddy” comedy with one of “The Banger Sisters” as her mom and co-star. McCarthy paired-up with Susan Sarandon, Schumer with Goldie Hawn. And we all know how that worked out.
Still, Schumer adds a little “acting” to her resume as Emily, a spoiled, narcissistic drain on society with an adenoidal whine. No wonder her musician boyfriend (Randall Park) dumps her. Upcoming Ecuadoran vacation or not, he’s not sticking with somebody without “any direction,” who can’t even hold on to a stockroom job at a cut-rate clothing store.
Desperately selfie-and-instant messaging through her social network for a replacement companion for the non-refundable ticket, Emily draws the attention of her mother (Hawn), who notices her “no relationship” Facebook status.
“You still have two years left to find someone!”
But upon visiting her divorced, cat-obsessed mom, still taking care of her agoraphobic piano teacher brother (Ike Barinholtz), Emily has maybe her first ever moment of altruism. MOM needs this. Mom, paranoid about…everything — will travel to a Third World country, take in the sights — at the gated resort — and keep an eye on her careless, thoughtless oldest child.
“Mom, you are too YOUNG to be acting like this!”
“You are too OLD to be acting like THIS!”
But Emily carelessly gets them into a situation where they wind up kidnapped, with a menacing gang leader (Oscar Jaenada), and a shut-in, socially inept sibling and two tough-talking “companion” tourists (Wanda Sykes and a hilariously silent Joan Cusack) as their only hope of rescue.
“Snatched” is a comedy of low-hanging fruit — old lady jokes, unattractive Amy jokes, “rape whistle” (a dog whistle, naturally) gags, Beyonce “All the Single Ladies” quotes and “Powder” movie references.
Screenwriter Kate Dippold, thanks to “Parks and Recreation” and “The Heat” and “Ghostbusters,” has a reputation for inferior femme-centric laughers, a rep which “Snatched” chisels in stone. The story lurches hither and yon, taking on convenient new characters to magically remove our heroines from this or that dilemma. The characters’ “arc,” or learning curve, with each woman learning something important from the other — seems imposed just before the final edit.
The deaths — generally kidnappers dispatched by “accident” by Emily — are kind of funny. As are the “You’re on your own” calls to the State Department (Thanks, Trump) and brother Jeffrey’s furiously incompetent threats to the do-nothing bureaucrat (Bashir Salahuddin) dodging those calls. Hawn still has that Oscar-winning timing, and Schumer’s on-set riffs and brazen “out there” big girl body confidence amuses.
Director Jonathan Levine, who has fallen a ways since “50/50,” wisely keeps our kidnapped heroines in the dark about all the Spanish-speaking going on around them (no subtitles), even if he can’t cover the “magical” arrival of a tapeworm-curing jungle doctor as a clumsy plot contrivance. McCarthy often has Paul Feig behind the camera, covering her stunt doubles, looking out for her interest. Schumer would hate to hear this, but she needs somebody like that in her corner. Hired gun Levine phones this in.
In all honesty, it’s got enough laughs to get by. But it’s a real crossroads picture for Schumer, who proves herself shamelessly willing to go where her plus-sized sister Melissa McCarthy has gone before. The crass shtick will only take her so far. Acting and physical comedy that doesn’t rely on others doing all your “stunts” (too obvious) create staying power.
MPAA Rating: R for crude sexual content, brief nudity, and language throughout
Cast: Amy Schumer, Goldie Hawn, Ike Barinholtz, Wanda Sykes, Joan Cusack, Oscar Jaenada
Credits:Directed by Jonathan Levine, script by Kate Dippold. A Fox release.
Running time: 1:31