‘You are a very gifted murderer,” says mother to daughter, with sincerity. Mom has been searching for something nice to say about her child, so this is both heartfelt and alarming.
It’s one of the better lines in “Snatched,” a comedy that gets its best laughs from very black humor, including murder. Although we’re really talking about manslaughter, just to split hairs.
Unfortunately, there isn’t enough manslaughter to keep the movie entirely afloat, despite the spirited efforts of two women who know many things about comedy: Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn.
Schumer gets the better of the deal, especially in the film’s early reels. When her character, Emily, is stuck with two non-refundable airline tickets following a breakup with her musician boyfriend, she is stuck taking her uptight mother Linda (Hawn) along to Ecuador.
When a self-professed adventurer (Tom Bateman) sweeps Emily off her feet, it gives Schumer a chance to vamp her way through a handful of drunken scenes. She’s good at finding the spot where free-spiritedness meets desperation, and somehow mining the humor from that.
The romance leads to mother and daughter waking up as hostages held for ransom, which means manslaughter is not far away.
The script (by “The Heat” scribe Katie Dippold) casually sets up Ecuador as yet another Scary Place where Americans are likely to run into bad hombres. It was shot in Hawaii, so none of this had to be cleared with Ecuadoran authorities.
There are opportunities for the situation to blossom, especially thanks to the supporting cast. Wanda Sykes and Joan Cusack appear as self-appointed security advisors, and Christopher Meloni plays a macho man passing himself off as a veteran Amazon explorer, except that he probably knows more about the website than the river.
Best of all is Ike Barinholtz, a “Mindy Project” regular and a bright spot in “Suicide Squad.” He plays Schumer’s agoraphobic brother, a super-nerd who involves himself in a rescue attempt.
But these elements strike sparks only in bursts, and the anything-goes approach that gets a big laugh from a guy getting fatally spiked by a spear gun doesn’t sit all that well next to the attempts at mother-daughter reconciliation. These movies always have to have two or three earnest scenes in which each aggrieved party must admit her bad parenting or irresponsible youth.
The biggest bummer is that Goldie Hawn has so little to do in her first movie since the 2002’s dismal “The Banger Sisters.” The idea of having two different generations of comedians collide is the main interest of this movie, and it’s also the biggest disappointment.
“Snatched” (2 1/2 stars)
Desperate fun-seeker Amy Schumer and uptight mom Goldie Hawn venture to Ecuador, where they are kidnapped. Some funny laughs (especially in the black-humor realm) can’t quite lift this one to the next level, especially given the waste of Hawn’s comic talents.
Rating: PG-13, for language, nudity, violence
Showing: Alderwood, Alderwood Mall, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Stanwood Cinemas, Meridian, Oak Tree, Sundance Cinemas, Thornton Place Stadium, Woodinville, Cascade Mall, Oak Harbor Plaza