Hot Pursuit will provide some moviegoers with a few easy laughs, but others are likely to find it just boring and unfunny.
Hot Pursuit stars Reese Witherspoon as Cooper, a strictly by-the-book Texan police officer who’s eager to prove that she takes after her father (a well-respected cop); though, of late she’s been assigned to desk duty, following an embarrassing mistake out in the field. Cooper gets a chance to improve her standing, when she’s assigned to guard the wife of Felipe Riva (Vincent Laresca): a drug dealer who’s agreed to testify against his recently incarcerated boss, Vicente Cortez (Joaquín Cosio).
However, things quickly go wrong after Cooper and her partner (Richard T. Jones) arrive to pick up the Rivas – leaving Cooper little choice but to go on the run with Mrs. Riva (Sofia Vergara), with dirty cops and cartel gunmen hot on their trail. The pair race to make it to Dallas, in the hope of getting Mrs. Riva into federal custody and clearing their names… assuming that the duo (who couldn’t be more different from one another) don’t kill each other first.
The premise for Hot Pursuit is your typical odd couple action/comedy setup; here, coupled with a pair of stars who’ve both earned acclaim for their previous comical work (Witherspoon in movies like Legally Blonde, Vergara on the TV series Modern Family). Unfortunately, Hot Pursuit fails to reach the bar set by similar recent titles such as The Heat – or even something like Ride Along, for that matter.
Ultimately, the problem with Hot Pursuit comes down to execution. The film’s script by David Feeney and John Quaintance – scribes whose previous work has largely been restricted to TV sitcoms like Joey, Ben and Kate, and New Girl – is pretty slapdash, in terms of how it constructs its character arcs and oscillates between moments of zany hijinks and heavy-handed sentiment. Plot-wise, Hot Pursuit mostly boils down to a collection of comedy set pieces; some are more successful than others, but by and large they’re neither particularly memorable not well-conceived. Somewhat unsurprisingly, much of the movie feels like a slightly more cinematic (and higher-budgeted) sitcom.
Hot Pursuit director Anne Fletcher is most experienced in the art of comedy (27 Dresses, The Proposal, The Guilt Trip), and it shows during the film’s action scenes – most of which are basic chase sequences, either on foot or by vehicle. Fletcher’s frequent collaborators – cinematographer Oliver Stapleton and editor Priscilla Nedd-Friendly – likewise prove unable to infuse the proceedings with much energy. This gives rise to a number of visual gags and punchlines that come off as slack – and feel like they might have proven more effective, had more creativity been applied towards the setups and payoffs.
That being said, much of the comedy in Hot Pursuit probably wouldn’t have been salvageable no matter how well it was executed. There’s a lot of stereotype-driven humor at play here (be it gender-based or race-based), but it lacks any real sort of bite – meaning, it comes off more as lazy, rather than either edgy satire or even just flat-out offensive. Similarly, there are some throwaway lines and running jokes that indicate the film might’ve had a thematic through-line at one point (about how women form their identities in the modern world) – but if so, then it got lost somewhere along the way.
Witherspoon and Vergara, as mentioned before, has earned kudos for their previous comedy work, but together onscreen they don’t have a whole lot of chemistry. To be fair, though, it’s difficult to say for certain how much of that is due to their performances and how much is the result of the script they’re drawing from. Either way, most of their interactions in Hot Pursuit give rise to uninspired jokes about Cooper being too uptight and mannish, while Vergara’s characterization (the screechy bombshell) isn’t any better. Sadly, the end result is that Hot Pursuit winds up showcasing the worst aspects of its stars’ respective comedic repertoires.
Hot Pursuit‘s supporting cast includes fairly solid character actors such as John Carroll Lynch (American Horror Story: Freak Show), Jim Gaffigan (It’s Kind of a Funny Story), Matthew Del Negro (Scandal), Michael Mosley (Longmire), and Robert Kazinsky (True Blood) playing various familiar archetypes – the stern boss, the love interest, and so forth. Some of them manage to leave a stronger impression than others, but most of them only hang around long enough for you to possibly recognize them – and little else. For better or worse, Hot Pursuit only briefly shifts the focus from its leads to the varied supporting cast at any given time.
Hot Pursuit will provide some moviegoers with a few easy laughs, but others are likely to find it just boring and unfunny. Those who are generally big fans of either Witherspoon and/or Vergara’s comedy work should get more enjoyment from the movie, but other films (and TV shows) have made far better use of their acting talent than Hot Pursuit does. That same goes for the buddy action/comedy sub-genre, which has seen far better days than it does here.
To sum it all up: if you’re planning to go to the theater this weekend and are searching for a good alternative to Avengers: Age of Ultron… well, Hot Pursuit might not be the one for you.
Hot Pursuit is now playing in U.S. theaters. It is 87 minutes long and is Rated PG-13 for sexual content, violence, language and some drug material.
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