Well intended but ultimately contrived

by Steve Pulaski

Hot Pursuit is a comedy of good intentions, obviously trying to cater to the audience who would like to see more comedies like The Heat instead of Get Hard. This is a positive change of pace, since most of the raunchy comedies we’ve gotten this year have been strained and unfunny works of the vulgarian breed. The film’s ultimate goal in trying to further etch the female buddy movie into the mainstream is nothing short of admirable, but the film only succeeds in proving that female buddy comedies can be just as lame-brained and unfunny as male buddy comedies.

This is another film that exists in the “maximum antics, minimum laughter” category of comedies, where a great deal of events and situational humor are always occurring but little of it amounts to genuine laughs. It’s also upsetting to see proven greats like Reese Witherspoon, whose performance in Wild ranked as one of the strongest female performances of last year, and Sofia Vergara, whose work on Modern Family almost always merits laughs, succumb to such dead-end drudgery.

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

Witherspoon plays Rose Cooper, a Texas police officer who, according to the first few minutes of the film, grew up in the backseat of her father’s police cruiser, getting an education on the streets and police procedures. However, after an honest misinterpretation of the word “shotgun” that resulted in an incident catastrophic to the police station, Cooper has resorted to working as a secretary. One day, Cooper’s superior officer finally gives her a new job that involves protecting a drug dealer and his wife Daniella Riva (Sofia Vergara) so they can testify in a trial against one of the most sinister drug lords. When a shootout at the couple’s home results in the death of her husband, Riva and Cooper hit the road together, eventually being labeled as fugitives and attempting to evade the goons of the drug lord and other police officers while attempting to get to Texas for the trial.

Witherspoon and Vergara spend most of the film running around, finding themselves in binding scenarios and assorted predicaments, many of which never amounting to much else other than looming frustration. Screenwriters David Feeney and John Quaintance seem so content with mediocrity that they forget to capitalize on any kind of dynamic between these two leads and any verbal wit that transcends the lasting impact of some goofy situational occurrences. Being that these two ladies are talented, however, bright spots do occasionally surface. In one scene, both ladies are shouting at one another in Spanish, with Witherspoon zealously reciting her lines, showing that even in the most lackluster projects, she can shine through.

The film was directed by Anne Fletcher, who has made the bulk of her career centered on female-driven comedies. Her last film, The Guilt Trip, posed an interesting and, again, rarely exploited dynamic of a mother and son that found ways to be very funny through light-hearted, amiable chemistry. In contrast, Hot Pursuit is predicated off of tiresome antics and shallow characters defined by simple tropes and negative attributes. Cooper and Riva lack any kind of identity, and each actress comes equipped with an accent that is played for laughs, proving the film is much more concerned with cheapshots than anything resembling human interest.

On a final note, it’s interesting to see Witherspoon and Vergara serve as high-level producers on this film. Obviously, they saw potential in the project so much so that they not only starred in it, but invested in it as well. I could foresee the optimism of both actresses learning of their roles in this comedy only to be drastically disappointed with the outcome. Hot Pursuit is so ridiculous and contrived it’s hard to feel any sense of pride stemming from the film itself let alone those involved with it.