Movie Review: “Hot Pursuit”

Reese Witherspoon, Sofia Vergara, Robert Kazinsky, John Carroll Lynch
Anne Fletcher

“Hot Pursuit” is bad. Like, really bad; the kind of movie where the blooper reel attached to the end credits is funnier than the film itself. Not that outshining Anne Fletcher’s action-comedy was particularly difficult to do, but at least it looks like Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara had fun making the movie. Unfortunately, sitting through it isn’t quite as pleasurable, akin to listening to fingernails on a chalkboard for 90 minutes while the two actresses yell at each other like a couple of high-strung Chihuahuas. Women in Hollywood may be desperate to prove that they can be funny too, but “Hot Pursuit” is so painfully dull, mind-numbingly stupid and just plain lazy that it doesn’t exactly help their cause.

Witherspoon stars as Officer Rose Cooper, the daughter of a well-respected cop who followed in her dad’s footsteps. But unlike him, Cooper is totally inept, recently demoted to the evidence locker after a now-infamous incident where she accidentally lit the mayor’s son on fire. When her precinct teams up with the U.S. Marshals Service to transport an important witness to Dallas ahead of his testimony against notorious cartel boss Vincent Cortez (Joaquín Cosio), Cooper is brought along as the police-mandated female escort for his wife, Danielle Riva (Vergara). But after her husband is killed by intruders, Cooper must protect Mrs. Riva from crooked cops and cartel hitmen looking to finish the job so that she can testify against Cortez the next day, even if Cooper has to drag the spoiled and unwilling witness there all by herself.

“Hot Pursuit” sets female-driven comedies back several decades. There’s not a subtle bone in its body, relying on lowest-common-denominator jokes that tactlessly exploit the characters’ sexuality (fake lesbian kissing) and femininity (gross talk about menstrual cycles), not to mention a running gag about Cooper’s height and Riva’s age that isn’t even moderately funny the first time around. It’s as if co-writers David Feeney and John Quaintance, whose collective resumes are littered with similarly low-brow work, watched every buddy cop comedy from the 1980s and 90s and recycled their favorite moments by reversing the gender identities without even updating them for present day. That’s how dated and trite the whole movie feels.

It doesn’t help that almost every other line of dialogue is delivered like it’s being screamed through a megaphone, and although that’s pretty much the extent of the shrill-voiced Vergara’s acting ability, Witherspoon is too good of an actress to stoop to that level – one that finds her dressing up as a Justin Bieber lookalike to go undercover at a Quinceañera, despite the fact that she stands out like a sore thumb. Pairing the two actresses together might have seemed like a good idea, but just because they’re complete opposites doesn’t mean they have any chemistry, and that becomes evident within the first 15 minutes. “Hot Pursuit” is an embarrassment to female comedies that reaffirms why studios are so hesitant to make them, because the only way this film could have been any worse is if Melissa McCarthy had been cast in the Witherspoon role.