I had high hopes for Hot Pursuit. Chalk it up to the fact that it’s a comedy made by a woman (director Anne Fletcher), starring women (Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara), and seemingly for women. The best case scenario I was hoping for was a new The Heat situation, but the worst came true. Writers David Feeney and John Quaintance played into just about every sort of cliche you could possibly think of with little to no surprises.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Cooper (Witherspoon), a by-the-book cop, follows in the footsteps of her father, one of the best cops there ever was who died in the line of duty. Thanks to a situation, exacerbated by her lack of experience, she has disgraced her family name and has been assigned to manning the evidence desk ever since, until she finally gets the chance she deserves.
It comes in the form of Felipe Riva, a drug boss, and his spitfire wife, Daniella (Vergara). The two are going to testify in court against the ultimate drug kingpin, but that means they need to go into protective custody. When Cooper, accompanied by a more experienced cop, comes to see them off to the courthouse in Dallas, their home comes under fire by two sets of assailants. Both Mr. Riva and her partner are killed in the crossfire, so Cooper goes on the run with Mrs. Riva to keep her safe. It doesn’t help matters much that everyone thinks Cooper is a dirty cop and the news is plastering their faces on all of the major TV networks.
The beginning of the movie, which just focuses on setting up Witherspoon’s character, Officer Cooper, is as dull and obvious as this premise sounds. Her only redeeming quality as a character in a comedy is the fact that she talks in a rapid-fire Southern accent, which, I guess, some people can find charming and comical. But if it wasn’t for Vergara’s signature over-the-top personality to provide some semblance of, you know, actual comedy, the movie would be even worse than it is. It’s not even offensive, and it easily could be. There’s a scene where Riva and Cooper pretend to be lesbians in order to get out of a tight situation. Then there’s the whole aspect of dirty cops while our nation is still processing the situation surrounding Baltimore. This should be bad timing. Hot Pursuit isn’t memorable enough to actually cause any sort of reaction, though.
I can’t speak for the filmmakers, but the problem seems to be that they relied too heavily on Witherspoon and Vergara for comedy. The script isn’t there. The dialogue is shoddy. The story has a lot of ridiculous loopholes and circumstances in order to explain events or get the characters from point A to point B. A perfect example comes when the duo's car breaks down because it just so happens to be the one car in Riva’s arsenal of vintage vehicles that is always overheating. On top of that, a truck rams into it and sprays the cocaine conveniently hidden in the trunk all over Riva and Cooper, sending Cooper into a drug-fueled high. A scene like this, which is barely held together with plausibility, should have been funny. Unfortunately, like the rest of the movie as a whole, it felt like Fletcher pointed the camera and said, “Okay, Witherspoon, go heavy with the Southern Belle charm and speak your lines really fast. And, Vergara, just be Vergara.”
Both women are charming enough to hawk a film like this on talk shows and in interviews, but even they couldn’t save this film. The best material was already replayed to death in the trailers and TV spots, and the film has nothing else to offer.
I still enjoy Vergara’s schtick when utilized properly, but she needs to find a new gig. There was a moment in Hot Pursuit that I won’t spoil, but that made me think perhaps she could pull off something a bit more serious, something a bit more Law & Order villain, and worthy of a decent script. A spitfire Latina bombshell is the only tool she has pulled from her box so far, and she’s been riding that one for all the money it’s worth. But as shown with Hot Pursuit, it doesn’t guarantee laughs. Her performance in this film makes you think something funny is going on because she’s loud, rolls her tongue, and speaks so fast that there’s a delay in your comprehension. But after the first couple of giggles, you come to the depressing realization that you’ve wasted nearly 90 minutes of your life that you’ll never get back.
That’s what I felt — depressed. It’s a sad day when you walk out of the theater and think that the bloopers shown beside the final credits are funnier than the actual movie.