I don’t remember Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara being this annoying. That was the one thought I kept coming back to after trying to discern exactly what Hot Pursuit was trying to achieve.
As avid moviegoers know, May is not a good month for chick flicks, with positive pre-release buzz around Pitch Perfect 2 being the exception, not the rule. May is pretty much where chick flicks go to die in most cases, with studios tossing their garbage girly movies against large-scale, high-profile blockbusters like Avengers: Age of Ultron that will devour them alive. That was clearly the plan with Hot Pursuit, a movie that was fortunate enough to get a weekend to itself in wide release, even if Avengers: Age of Ultron still clobbered it at the box office, with the rest of its meager box office prospects no doubt being obliterated by the double bill of Pitch Perfect 2, and Warner Bros.’ own Mad Max: Fury Road next weekend.
The baffling thing is, regarding Witherspoon and Vergara, both serving as producers as well as lead actresses, why did either of them slum it for such a dead-on-arrival movie? Witherspoon has no shortage of recent successes, particularly her involvement in producing Gone Girl, and both starring and producing in the Oscar-nominated Wild. Likewise, Vergara continues to enjoy a great lead role on ABC’s highly popular sitcom, Modern Family. Why would either of these women think that a movie like this would be a good career choice? Hell, Vergara was apparently an executive producer! Seriously?! Why?!
It’s probable that Hot Pursuit may have been a good idea, once upon a time, and maybe that’s what drew Witherspoon and Vergara to being so heavily involved. As to what its final product is though, it’s a shrill, unfunny mess, and a black stain on Witherspoon’s and Vergara’s filmographies, one that will immediately be forgotten by the time Pitch Perfect 2 takes its place for girls’ night.
Hot Pursuit is a buddy cop comedy starring Witherspoon as the irritatingly by-the-book Officer Cooper, with Vergara playing off of her as the hot-headed Latina mob wife, Daniella Riva, whom Cooper must escort to safety after being hunted by criminals and corrupt cops alike.
Already, Hot Pursuit feels like a pretty bare-bones template for a buddy cop comedy. Oh, but they’re ladies, you see! That seems to be the best idea that Hot Pursuit has to try and set itself apart from far better realizations of this formula, like Lethal Weapon or Rush Hour. Hell, Paul Feig’s The Heat already came around just a couple of years ago to realize a far superior female-driven buddy cop comedy! Naturally, Hot Pursuit’s feeble foundation also leads to a bunch of jokes about boobs and periods and big underwear and lesbianism. Did I mention that this script was written by two men? Yeah, can’t say I’m surprised.
Bless Witherspoon and Vergara, because they really try their darndest here. Still, even their talents can’t salvage a script this bad, and direction this questionable. Witherspoon is doing some sort of nasally hick cop impression throughout the entire movie, and is clearly trying way too hard to get laughs, to no effect. When she’s not hyperactive and annoying, she just sounds bored and detached. Likewise, Vergara dials up her typical saucy Latina personality from Modern Family to ludicrous, equally annoying proportions. Even Gloria Pritchett herself would say that this woman is a bit much!
Believe me when I say that Hot Pursuit checks off every buddy cop comedy cliche in the book too, so it won’t shock anyone that these two will inevitably become friends by the end, despite hating each other for most of the runtime. The movie attempts character development and sweet moments between Cooper and Riva, but it just lands with a thud, every time. These characters are far too irritating and stubborn to like in any way, and their survival in their situation is based predictably on script contrivance, not actual teamwork or resourcefulness. This makes rooting for them pretty well impossible.
The supporting cast in the movie is handled extremely poorly as well. Hot Pursuit sets up some of the most vague, ill-defined villains in buddy cop comedy history. Two of Cooper’s fellow officers are supposed to be corrupt and chasing the women, but, I kid you not, they are eventually scuttled away off-screen, and never seen again. Wow. It takes a special kind of laziness to do in your villains off-screen. That’s not a spoiler. That’s just how little Hot Pursuit cares about its storyline. There are other big bads that come after, including a very weak twist that anyone with a brain (or anyone that has at least seen a movie like this) can see coming a mile away, but their arcs and motivations make no sense at all. They’re just there because this movie needs bad guys.
Likewise, a love interest for Cooper comes completely out of nowhere, again, purely a product of outrageous script contrivance. Their relationship is incredibly forced, and under no believable circumstances would it ever occur. It’s another way that Hot Pursuit checks off a cliche with no regard for the story or character arcs, and regardless of how little sense it makes.
That really sums up the character arcs of Hot Pursuit nicely. None of them make sense. None of them act like level-headed human beings at any point, so you can’t really root for anyone. This is also why the leads end up so insufferable, since the script knows it isn’t funny, and tries to substitute noise and PG-13 shock gags instead. Well, it doesn’t work. None of these characters work!
I’ve entirely summed up the plot of Hot Pursuit already. It’s the kind of story foundation you could scribble out on a cocktail napkin.
Considering that there isn’t much story material to work with, Hot Pursuit gasps for jokes by throwing non sequitir, non-sensical gags left and right, with no sense of comedic timing whatsoever. It just barely scrapes together a feature length at 87 minutes, a red flag that shows how much the movie was clearly hacked apart in the editing room in a desperate attempt to salvage it.
One could forgive the rampant, aggressive stupidity that Hot Pursuit suffers from in regards to police procedure especially (one of the movie’s most infuriating plot holes is how the physically incompetent, awful-driving Cooper ever became a cop!), if it was at least funny. It is not funny. The best that the movie can achieve is a few slight chuckles, and many of those seem to happen by accident. My entire screening was laugh-free in fact, save for one particular group of housewives, who seemed to find the movie hysterical, rather conspicuously standing out.
That seems to be the target audience of Hot Pursuit; Bored, undemanding housewives who don’t care about the persistent lack of quality, since they’re just happy to get out to the movies with friends. Even then however, a good chunk of bored housewives will probably be disappointed, since Hot Pursuit’s story is clearly so lazy and apathetic. Despite the flagrant false advertising of the title, it’s got the comedic momentum of a snail crossing a wet sidewalk!
Hot Pursuit may have been written by men, again, shocking no one that actually sees this dreck, but it was at least directed by a woman. Unfortunately, that woman is Anne Fletcher, whose best directing credit is probably 2009’s mostly decent The Proposal. Fletcher’s other major directing credits include 27 Dresses, The Guilt Trip and the original Step Up. Oh dear. That’s not great.
As The Proposal proved, Fletcher isn’t completely unable to direct a girly comedy. It’s her wheelhouse, for better or for worse. With that said though, Hot Pursuit seems to be out of her element. Fletcher seems to try and get around the faulty script by encouraging Witherspoon and Vergara to over-act, which just makes the movie annoying on top of being unfunny. She also proves that she has no idea how to direct an action scene, the small handful of which are all completely lacking in intensity and real thrills, shot with complete indifference. This is likely why the movie barely has any of them. Yeah, doesn’t that sound great? A buddy cop comedy with almost no action scenes? Hot Pursuit doesn’t even have a climactic action scene! What the hell?!
Again, Fletcher is… Fine, at directing girly flicks, but Hot Pursuit seems like one of those movies that initially set out to try and equally appeal to both male and female viewers. It doesn’t succeed at all with the former, and it doesn’t even truly succeed with most of the latter either. Fletcher then tries to direct Hot Pursuit as a girls’ night out flick, but even that doesn’t really seem to turn out well. A movie called Hot Pursuit really shouldn’t be this dull, whenever Witherspoon and Vergara aren’t aggressively annoying you with their overdone dialogue anyway.
Hot Pursuit is about what you would expect from a thankless May chick flick. It’s lazy, it’s not funny, it’s not charming, and it’s just overall not good. It’s a movie that even Warner Bros. doesn’t seem to think is good, trying to make back at least some of the modest budget by stashing it in the lone free weekend after the behemoth release of Avengers: Age of Ultron that other movies rightfully distanced themselves from, before they can distract their audiences and shareholders with Mad Max: Fury Road the following weekend. Even Pitch Perfect 2 will be dropping from Universal at the same time, a girly flick that’s enjoyed plenty of positive pre-release reception already. Thus, Hot Pursuit is left with no leg to stand on, and no reason to exist.
It’s a shame, because Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara are two very talented actresses, and Witherspoon is even a pretty solid producer! There’s absolutely no reason for them to slum it with a crappy movie like Hot Pursuit. Maybe Witherspoon wanted to relax and have a bit of fun after Wild, and maybe Vergara just wanted a break from Modern Family, but even then, it’s tough to discern exactly why either actress thought that a movie like Hot Pursuit was a good idea. Something tells me it won’t be put on either of their resumes.
If you’re really undemanding and just want a good time with the girls, maybe you might get some enjoyment out of Hot Pursuit, but for just about everyone, this movie is a hard pass. Even if you want a girls’ night, so long as it’s not somehow urgent to the point of needing to be before the 15th of May, just wait a weekend, and you’ll have Pitch Perfect 2, which already looks to be a far superior, far funnier and far more likeable girly movie!
Despite its title, Hot Pursuit is a cold, disappointing stroll through lazy, predictable buddy cop cliches. Like its lead actresses, you can definitely do a lot better.
Hot Pursuit is a lazy, thankless, thoroughly unfunny chick flick sent to a desolate May weekend to die by the studio. Despite the best efforts of Witherspoon and Vergara in the lead roles, there's no salvaging this mess.
THE GOOD STUFF
Witherspoon and Vergara try their best
THE NOT-SO-GOOD STUFF
Witherspoon and Vergara are annoying and unfunny here
Aggressively idiotic storyline, rife with buddy cop cliches