Hot Pursuit isn’t a very good movie. I enjoyed it, sure, and I even laughed a number of times, but all things considered, it’s weak. Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara play well together and clearly the team up was supposed to evoke similar pleasure as Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock in The Heat but the former has a dicey script, some unnecessary gender specific jokes and a storyline that is simply ludicrous.
I say this with frustration because I may be one of the few active defenders of Anne Fletcher as a director.Yes, of course I enjoyed the charming The Proposal but 27 Dresses is one of my favorite romantic comedies, Step Up introduced me to dancing Channing Tatum, and The Guilt Trip while largely inconsequential was a sweet story about a mother and son relationship. None of her films are groundbreaking, sure, but they’re also rarely deserving of the vitriol that they’ve received. If anything I can say that nothing about the film that went wrong is a fault of Fletcher’s, but rather the script that reads as juvenile and hurried.
Cooper, (Witherspoon) an uptight cop, is forced to protect Daniella (Vergara), the widow of a drug boss as they pushed into being on the run from both crooked cops and gunmen. Cooper’s uptight personality has gotten her in trouble before (in a wildly stupid “shotgun” gag) and she’s looking to redeem herself with this case while Daniella is simply trying to escape the country before she’s killed. The two’s personalities butt heads, shenanigans happen along with one too many car chases and friendships are formed.
So, stuff happens. The scripted laughs are just that, scripted. They’re playing for big and broad and while some work, most don’t and it’s writers David Feeney and John Quaintance more often than not are playing for the obvious joke. There’s even a played out sequence where Cooper and Daniella play on mens “fear” of the menstrual cycle to get away. There’s talk about what it means to “be a woman” (you know, because there can only be ONE way) and I can’t help but wonder what the film would have looked like if it had had a female writer.
Maybe the “Officer Lesbian” joke wouldn’t have happened and I could have been all the happier.
What makes it all the more frustrating was that there were moments where you could see maybe that the film was trying to go for a more all inclusive tone. The theme of not judging people based on their race and gender is persistent and there’s an entire scene where the two leads distract a man by pretending to be lovers which almost seems like it’s trying to poke fun at people who sexualize women, only to result in a scene that leans more to the offensive side than clever.
If any part of the film is salvageable it’s due to performances by Vergara and particularly Witherspoon who throws her all into this ridiculously over the top character. A sequence when Witherspoon is possibly strung out on an accidental cocaine dose is particularly funny, with the actresses physical comedic strengths being used in full force. She is all electric energy.
The humor isn’t derivative from script but rather from the physical humor done by the film’s two leads as well as the sight gags on Fletcher’s part. They get that the film isn’t supposed to be serious-and that’s fine. Comedy can be big and broad as long as it isn’t talking down to it’s viewers and as long as it doesn’t mistake broad humor for poorly written humor (take a gander at any Adam Sandler movie and you’ll get the gist).
It’s dumb humor wrapped into a 90 minute package and while I wish I liked it more, if you’ve seen the trailer, you know what you’re getting into.
Hot Pursuit is out now.