A film that should hit the road

by Kristina Aiad-Toss

Since her Academy Award for Walk the Line, Reese Witherspoon’s career has included a few memorable, award-worthy roles and even more forgettable, far from award-winning ones. Witherspoon has added yet another unworthy film, perhaps the biggest downfall yet, when she co-starred in Hot Pursuit, a comedy only by description … not merit. Witherspoon’s character, Cooper, is an extremely uptight yet inexperienced police officer who is assigned to the protective detail of Daniella Riva (Sofia Vergara) — a spoiled widow of a drug lord — through Texas as they run from cops and dangerous gunmen. Directed by Anne Fletcher, with a lackluster, unoriginal screenplay from sitcom writers David Feeney and John Quaintance, Hot Pursuit provides a glaring example on how not to make a road-trip comedy.

The largest setback of the film lies in its execution and script, with flawed character constructions and oscillations between scenes of crazy hijinks and heavy-handed sentimentality. In addition, the plotline of Hot Pursuit is merely a collection of slightly comedic elements. While some are more successful than others, the majority is not especially notable or well conceived. From this episodic and sporadic nature, the movie comes across like a somewhat cinematic sitcom. Some decent hints of comedy occur during the film’s action scenes — most of which are basic, typical chase sequences lacking any energy or interesting aspects. Resulting are a number of lazy visual gags and pathetic punch lines that could have been more successful if more effort was put toward the setups and payoffs. Even then, the majority of the humor probably would not have been redeemable regardless of its execution.

Hot Pursuit
Directed by
Anne Fletcher
Reese Witherspoon, Sofía Vergara, Matthew Del Negro
Release Date
8 May 2015
Kristina’s Grade: D+

Because most of the comical attempts are overused, stereotype-driven jokes, the delivery comes off more as lazy, rather than edgy satire or even just plain offensive. Following this, certain unnecessary lines and running jokes try to point toward a theme about how women create their identities in the modern world but got lost somewhere along the way. Although both leads have been known for their comedy in the past — Witherspoon in Legally Blonde and Vergara in Modern Family — the unlikely pair lack any chemistry in the film. However, much of the fault does not rest on their performances, but is the result of the bland script. In the end, the interactions between the not-so-dynamic duo falls short with uninspired jokes about Cooper being too uptight and mannish, while Vergara’s is scaled down to being a clichéd trophy wife. With this characterization, the film brings out the worst elements of both stars’ esteemed comedic ability and experience. Among the other familiar archetypical roles, is a supporting cast of many well-known actors: Matthew Del Negro, John Carroll Lynch, Jim Gaffigan, and Michael Mosley.

The majority of supporting characters portray their characters to the best of their ability with the subpar script they are provided with. Because the filmmakers barely shift the focus from Witherspoon and Vergara, the remaining actors have only a meager portion of the film onscreen, causing the storyline to be one-dimensional and devoid of variety. With even the ending bloopers rendering the theater silent, Hot Pursuit is an unbearable 87 minutes of poor filmmaking caked with unoriginality and tired humor, only offering a few half-hearted chuckles.