“I am garbage,” Amy Schumer’s Emily Middleton, on a vacation in Ecuador with her ma, Linda (Goldie Hawn), that’s gone all wrong, chimes in agreement with someone who’s leveled the insult at her — and who’s also holding the two women for ransom — in Snatched. Your enjoyment of this neo-colonialist comedy caper masquerading as mommy-and-me time will depend on how often you like to see that assessment demonstrated. Scripted by Katie Dippold (The Heat, Ghostbusters 2016) and directed, with wavering attention to blocking and staging, by Jonathan Levine, Snatched spends the first half of its 90 minutes dredging the generational technology divide for chuckles: Linda doesn’t understand how Facebook works; Emily busies herself, to Mom’s great annoyance, with art-directing and curating her ’grammable moments.
But the laughs don’t come, especially those that pivot on that multivalent word for the punch line: In a scene that signals the soft racism to follow, Linda mishears the standard English greeting of the Ecuadorian concierge, handing out a complimentary drink, as “whale cum.” Snatched is Hawn’s first movie since 2002’s The Banger Sisters. Her half-committed performance here, however understandable, suggests she may have regretted the decision to end her semi-retirement.
In the second part of Snatched, as the gringas find themselves ever-imperiled and now across the border in Colombia (which, like all the South American locations in the movie, is played by Hawaii), the noxious self-absorption of straight white women that Schumer has sent up so blisteringly on her Comedy Central show is extolled more than it is lampooned. There’s relief whenever Wanda Sykes, as a butch traveler on holiday with her “platonic friend” (Joan Cusack), shows up. She performs the same comic salvaging she did in Monster-in-Law (2005), another take-Mom-to-the-multiplex misfire featuring an icon’s return to the screen after a 15-year absence: Jane Fonda, in full lioness mode. That film traded in casual misogyny, Snatched in offhand xenophobia. Happy Mother’s Day.