Director: Anne Fletcher
Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Sofia Vergara, Robert Kazinsky, Michael Mosley, Matthew Del Negro, John Carroll Lynch, Joaquin Cosio, Richard T. Jones
Plot: Officer Cooper (Witherspoon) is a hard-working, by-the-books cop who is put on security detail of a major witness and his wife (Vergara), who are testifying against a dangerous cartel leader.
Hot Pursuit starts off quite strong. It opens with a rather touching and amusing montage that shows Cooper’s childhood travelling with her cop father in the back seat of a police car. It is mildly funny, but the important thing is that it sets up Reese Witherspoon’s character for the rest of the movie. Being a cop is everything she knows and loves, plus her father means everything to her. Seeing as the action kicks off as soon as this montage is over, it is very important in terms of getting the relevant beats of character across early. We really care for Witherspoon as we fast-forward to her life as a cop. She isn’t quite at the rank she wants to be, in charge of the evidence locker, despite her intense attention to detail and her unwavering decency. It is a fantastic performance from Witherspoon. After seeing Wild this year, I was a little disheartened that her follow-up movie was yet another comedy, but at least the actress makes a meal of it. Sporting a Southern American accent and the attitude of a hard-done-by pitbull, she is a wondrous creation. She is both adorable, yet stubborn. You will disagree with many of her character choices throughout the movie, but understand that she is making them out of her inner code, so we never lose touch with who she is. When the movie descends into jokes about dating and sex, Witherspoon keeps the comedy on track with her naïve attitude, fully understanding the character she is playing. And if you think she is funny at her usual self, wait until you see Officer Cooper after getting caught in a cloud of cocaine. That following scene in the petrol station is the highlight of the movie.
Sadly, everything else in Hot Pursuit isn’t up to much cop (pardon the pun). The villains and supporting characters are merely routine or average. More could have been done with Robert Kazinsky. Little time is spent on the other cop characters. At least, they don’t get in the way of the jokes, even if they don’t really contribute. Sofia Vergara, on the other hand, is the equivalent of a comedy black hole, sucking the humour out of the film, as if nature created her to do just that. I have never found the actress funny, although a lot of Hot Pursuit’s selling point is asking her to use her natural sense of comedy to fuel the film. Of course, it doesn’t work, cutting the movie off whenever a stream of jokes begin rolling. If you find Witherspoon and Vergara riffing off of each other funny, then Hot Pursuit will be your dream cinema trip. The set-up of each scene is often a small chase from various bad guys, cornering the two leads into a situation they need to work together to get out of, and then showing the pair of them fail to do that. Often a chuckle escapes your lips, but on the whole, we are forced to sit through whole segments of plot that do very little to make the audience laugh. You kind of feel sorry for Reese Witherspoon, who made the first ten minutes of this movie so appealing, only to be trapped with a co-star whose Latina and high heels running jokes are so predictable, you might as well have written the script yourself. The movie is much funnier, when it finds an excuse to step away from Vergara and have the other characters do their thing for a little while. Even when Witherspoon finds an angle to make the audience laugh, Vergara is often hanging over her shoulder, chipping in and awkwardly killing everything the rest of the cast and crew are working so hard to build.
Final Verdict: Witherspoon shines, but one good character does not make a dream pairing. Hot Pursuit’s best gags are ruined by Vergara’s over-the-top stereotype.