Dave White
Hot Pursuit Review

Dave's Rating:

1.0

Pursue a ticket to a different movie.

Allow me to mangle Tolstoy for a minute, and say that each good comedy is good in its own way, but that all bad comedies are alike. There's variation, of course, but they all limp along on sad, weak legs and confused direction. They're airless. They're joyless. And they move with the same tired rhythms. Their biggest claim to Hollywood magic is that one diabolical trick where they take talented casts and convince you, for 90 interminable minutes, that those are the worst actors in the world. Well, Hot Pursuit, welcome to that garbage heap.

Uptight, by-the-book cop Cooper (Reese Witherspoon) has to transport wild, strong-willed, witness protection candidate Daniella (Sofia Vergara) from San Antonio to Dallas so that Daniella can testify against a drug lord. Men with guns get in the way of this, a few of them corrupt police officers themselves. In turn, the women must steal vehicles, walk through clouds of cocaine, shriek, fall down, wear animal costumes, get into scrapes while handcuffed to one another, and enact fake lesbian makeout sessions to outsmart and outrun their pursuers.

There's a lot of comic promise here. Witherspoon has demonstrated her ability to take the dangerous route in comedies like Election and the glorious cult film Freeway. And Vergara, the MVP of Modern Family, has the tightrope ability to indulge in all the stereotypes she willfully embodies while winking at you the entire time.

The women are giving. Their timing is right. Their chemistry is visible. Their physical interaction -- especially in a scene where they must drive a bus while handcuffed to each other -- is on point. They should, by rights, crackle in each other's company.

But it's a collapsing project from the start, thanks to a do-nothing script from According to Jim writer David Feeney (co-written with John Quaintance), and it stays down for the entire running time. Anne Fletcher's direction is on the side of making sure her stars bond with the camera and each other, but that bus-driving scene is the funny moment, and no amount of affectionate directorial attention can make up for that.

There is nothing here for these capable actors to do. And it'll be used as evidence against women in comedy, the way films like this always are. Of course, the only point it will prove is that scripts should have nerve and power and a pulse. Vergara, Witherspoon, and the audience, we all deserve more, and better. But what we all get this time around is the kind of film with a blooper reel over the closing credits, that tell-tale, last-ditch effort of a project struggling for life. We watch the actors giggle over their mistakes, and we half-smile, and we wish we had been allowed to laugh even half as much.

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