Dumped by her boyfriend just before the trip of a lifetime to a South American resort, feckless New Yorker Emily Middleton (Amy Schumer) turns to the one person who might come with her: her mum (Goldie Hawn). Awaiting them in the tropics, though, is kidnap, druggings and potentially worse.
On paper, the mother-daughter pairing of Goldie Hawn and Amy Schumer should be a comedy golden ticket. One, a comeback queen with an Oscar to her name, has comic effervescence and likeability to burn; the other is a fearless dissector of sexual politics who ventures cheerily to places others fear to tread. Throw in a script co-written by Schumer and The Heat And Spy’s Katie Dippold that has them playing a dim-bulb daughter and her risk-averse mother embarking on a kind of Mum And Dumber double act through the jungle thickets of Werner Herzog country and… well, what’s not to like?
What’s not to like? Unfortunately, the answer is quite a lot.
Unfortunately, the answer is quite a lot. Ostensibly a comedy about the deep but often fractious bonds between mums and daughters, the result is a messy, unfocused road-trip comedy that never manages to locate its heart. The two stars throw themselves gamely into an array of indignities as they’re chased across Latin America by generic local baddies, and there’s the odd belly laugh, especially early on, but the alchemy isn’t quite there and the plot lurches from one improbability to another like a shonky satnav.
The set-up introduces Emily, Schumer’s impulsive, freshly fired and — in the movie’s funniest scene — newly dumped shop assistant, and Linda, her super-neurotic divorcee mum (we meet her scouring the internet for local sex offenders), as polar opposites. Promising to put the “fun” into “non-refundable”, Emily somehow persuades her mum, against her better judgment, to accompany her to Ecuador for a two-week holiday in paradise. But as the title suggests, the pair swiftly go south in more ways than one. Shrugging off the warning of a pair of poolside paranoiacs (Wanda Sykes and Joan Cusack, an ex-special ops agent so dedicated she’s cut out her own tongue to avoid breaking under torture), Schumer is lured into a hunky honeytrap (Tom Bateman), and the pair are soon ransom bait for some heavily armed villains.
So far, so-so. But when the pair escape their captors and find themselves deep in the jungle, the movie loses its compass. There’s an encounter with a chiselled explorer type (Christopher Meloni), who seems like the answer to their prayers, but in a gag so telegraphed it practically has wires attached turns out to be anything but. Then comes a scene that will haunt the dreams of all but the most ironclad constitution. It wouldn’t be giving too much away to say that this random snippet of Cronenbergian body horror belongs in another movie altogether — or better yet, no movie at all.
Oddly, aside from boasting villains straight out of Shady Latin American central casting, an amusing mishearing of “welcome” as “whale cum”, and some capoeira, there’s no real attempt to mine the fish-out-of-water comedy of two Yankees lost in a situation where everything should feel alien and threatening. Instead the pair simply American their way out of danger so successfully, Emily’s inevitable third-act learnings feel unearned.
A winning double act never quite gels in a fish-out-of-water road-trip caper — think ‘National Lampoon’s Gringo Vacation’ — that leans hard on its stars’ charms and very lightly on coherent plotting.