Linda (Goldie Hawn) and Emily (Amy Schumer) try to escape the outrageous jungle adventure they have fallen into in Snatched. Picture: Justina Mintz

It may just be an early-summer action comedy, but the stakes feel oddly high for Snatched. Will star Amy Schumer recreate her Trainwreck magic? 

Are co-star Goldie Hawn’s screwball chops still intact after a 15-year absence from the big screen? Does writer Katie Dippold’s screenplay have more bite than her ineffectual Ghostbusters reboot? And, of course: Can a female-driven movie deliver at the box office?

That’s a lot of anticipation to bog down any film - let alone something as featherweight as Snatched, a fitfully amusing, mother-daughter caper that’s elevated a notch by its gifted central duo and capable direction from Jonathan Levine. 

Schumer and Hawn know what funny looks and sounds like, and they lend their dialogue and gags - no matter how tepid - enough snap and personality to distract you. To put it bluntly, they’re worth watching even in junk like this.

Gripping story of passion & desire

Schumer plays Emily, who is fired from her retail job and then dumped by her boyfriend (Park). Sloppy, sexual, unapologetic about her body and its various functions, Schumer’s comic persona - similarly to that of Lena Dunham, her sister in glorious female chaos - forces us to confront gender double standards.

That’s why, like Dunham, Schumer is polarising. That’s also, combined with her undeniable skill and charisma, what makes her a bracing alternative to the usual rom-com queens and brom-com kings. Schumer’s presence in a movie is a mark, if not necessarily of quality, at least of novelty.

The draw here, of course, is the pairing of Schumer with older-school comedy goddess Hawn as Emily’s overprotective mom, Linda. A divorcee who lives with a couple of cats and her agoraphobic son (Barinholtz), Linda is more suburban neurotic than vintage Goldie Hawn ditz. 

The stars get a decent odd-couple chemistry going, with Hawn’s dazed elegance nicely deflecting Schumer’s pouty quips and crass wisecracks.

No Stoep-ing Trevor as he finds the funny in SA politics

The scene in which Linda writes to Emily on Emily’s Facebook wall is just one example of how the two performers turn a generational-clash bit (Linda doesn’t realise it’s not a private message) into something giggle-worthy.

Stuck with a non-refundable trip for two to Ecuador, Emily persuades her mother to go with her. So off they go, and soon Linda is slathering her daughter with copious amounts of sunblock at a posh resort. Emily starts to enjoy her holiday more when she meets a tall, dark and handsome Brit named James (Bateman).

In Snatched, that disconnect between female presentation and female authenticity is literalised when an inopportunely opened bathroom door allows James to catch a glimpse of Emily preparing herself - in the most intimate sense - for a possible hook-up with him later that night.

It’s a bold comic moment in a film that quickly moves on to sillier things - namely, a dumb kidnapping plot that brings Emily and Linda into contact with a baddie named Morgado (Jaenada), then sends them running for their lives through the Amazon.

They’re helped along the way by a couple of “platonic friends” (Joan Cusack and Wanda Sykes), as well as a genial Indiana Jones wannabe (Meloni) and a beleaguered state department official (Bashir Salahuddin).

There’s one extremely bizarre gag involving the manual extraction of a tapeworm, and also some unfortunate cultural stereotyping in the form of gun-toting Colombians with long hair and sinister teeth.

Levine isn’t a deft enough director to overcome the optics of yet another film about white characters finding themselves thanks to their experience in a problem-plagued developing country. But he shepherds his cast through slapstick set-pieces with reasonable speed and fluency.

Dippold, meanwhile, already has a much better female-buddy flick, The Heat, under her belt, though she occasionally crafts a scene here that pierces the lowest-common-denominator haze; a borderline-surreal exchange between Emily and an inept US embassy official in Bogota (Al Madrigal) hints at the sharper, more offbeat movie Snatched might have been.

Still, in the apocalyptically bleak landscape of the mainstream studio comedy, the mere sight of Schumer and Hawn just doing their thing is almost pleasing enough to get a pass. Almost.