“Hot Pursuit” is boring and aggressively unfunny. Even worse, it’s extremely regressive on several different levels.
The most disheartening aspect of “Hot Pursuit” is Reese Witherspoon’s involvement as the star and one of the producers of the film. Sure, Witherspoon made a name on playing the plucky, wide-eyed Southern belle, who has charm to spare but after a string of disposable romantic comedies, she turned her career around. She began a production company to make bold films with strong female leads. It was thrilling to see Witherspoon’s career back on track, as she worked effortlessly to get “Gone Girl” to the screen and starred in and produced “Wild”, delivering the best performance of her career. She even got a second Oscar nomination for that film, dispelling notions she might be a one-hit Academy wonder (Witherspoon picked up Best Actress of 2005 for “Walk the Line”). It was exciting to think about what Witherspoon might do next.
Then “Hot Pursuit” came out.
Witherspoon stars as Cooper. Her childhood was spent in the back of a police car, riding around with her father, who was an officer. It was in Cooper’s blood to become a cop and that is exactly what she did. The movie never really settles on if she is a good cop or not, because she mostly spends time fumbling with her gun or her Taser or spouting off police codes, which relaxes her.
Cooper is assigned to a case involving the wife of an elite member of a drug cartel. She is ordered to escort Daniella (Sofia Vergara) to Dallas so she can testify against her husband and the cartel. Once that is done, Daniella will enter witness protection. What ensue are road trip hijinks and predictable mismatched buddy comedy scenarios. Daniella thinks Cooper is small and frail, while Cooper thinks Daniella is a loudmouth criminal. They spend the movie bickering back and forth in some of the most unfunny and uninspired ways.
This kind of recycled comedy seems to be director Anne Fletcher’s forte. Her work ranges from the first “Step Up” to the dreadful “27 Dresses”, the surprisingly funny but predictable “The Proposal” and the forgettable “The Guilt Trip”. In a sea of a mediocre filmography, “Hot Pursuit” is a scarlet letter on her résumé.
It’s always interesting when a film like this has two credited writers. I always think between two people, something funny must have come out while writing this. Writers David Feeney and John Quaintance have a variety of sitcom credits to their name and it shows in every scene of the movie. The only difference is, the sitcoms they have worked on are far superior to this movie.
There is often a debate on the role female actors play in comedy. Some of the funniest comedies in the past few years were led by women, including “Bridesmaids” and “The Heat”. There are times when “Hot Pursuit” tries to desperately to capture the magic of Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy in “The Heat”. Witherspoon and Vergara just don’t have the same entertaining patter that those two actresses did. They just yell and screech back and forth and it’s deeply unpleasant for us as viewers.
From interviews and promotions, it seems Witherspoon and Vergara became good friends while making this movie. At least one positive thing came out of “Hot Pursuit”.
“Hot Pursuit” rates 1 out of 10