Film Review: Hot Pursuit

on May 08, 2015, 1:45am

Listen, Hot Pursuit? It’s harmless. Harmless. It’s, uh … look, it’s harmless.

In a bid for easy money at a low cost as counterprogramming to Avengers: Age of Allthemoney, Hot Pursuit comes in, medium cool. It’s not very slick, it’s a bit crass, and it’s chopped together on the fly, but there’s a certain draw to it. It has game talents, even if they’re smirking all the way. Hot Pursuit has a handful of great laughs, even if plenty are dead as a doornail, too. But above all, it’s only 87 minutes and isn’t a waste of time. And that’s something in this bloat-y summer season we’re now entering.

In the vein of Odd Couples and Thelma and Louise, Hot Pursuit gives us an officer and a cartel widow high-tailing it to safety amidst a sea of dirty cops, double-crossin’ crooks, and, worst of all, Texas alpha males. Reese Witherspoon is Officer Cooper, a skittish cop that’s by-the-book but currently working inventory in a cage after tasing a local mayor’s son; Cooper was not aware that shouting “shotgun” had to do with prioritizing one’s car seat. Imagine Tracy Flick 20 years later, more idealistic, with a cop dad, in Texas. Cooper’s tasked with escorting Danielle Riva, or rather Sofía Vergara, in what could only be described as her most Sofía Vergara role yet. She shouts, begs, screams, pleads, waaaahhs, and calls Cooper a “flat ass” and “officer lesbian.” It’s all part of the comedy of two grown women with whisper-thin characterizations barking at each other.

The race to safety is slim and unsurprising. There’s an age-old formula to sticking two types like this together for a crime caper of some sort (The Heat, 21 Jump Street, 48 Hrs, The Guard, Feds, Hot Fuzz, K-9, Turner and Hooch, Lethal Weapon, The Other Guys, Red Heat, Running Scared, Stakeout, Rush Hour, Showtime, Midnight Run, the one with Jay Leno and Pat Morita just to name a few). Or for road comedy (a much longer list we’ll save for later).

However, Hot Pursuit has the benefit of two leads that seem to be having a decent time getting at each other’s goats. They withstand jokes about periods and being geeked up on cocaine because the two commit. Witherspoon is a divine and unsung comedienne. Here she aims for puckish nuttiness. She’s a pipsqueak, excitable and tense, brandishing a Beretta and big white undies when the situation calls for either. When Witherspoon twitches on blow and talks about baking and disguises, she can sell the silliness. Vergara uses the same shtick she’s been working for the last few years on Modern Family; that’s right, broken English and constant talk of her figure. Her breasts, mostly. Hey, if it ain’t broke.

Hot Pursuit has zero pretense (or ambition for that matter). Anne Fletcher’s something of an uneven director of comedy and romance (The Proposal, The Guilt Trip, Step Up), capable of handling stars, or rather just letting them be themselves on screen. Here, she’s less interested in a story and more about sticking Vergara and Witherspoon in a Caddy and hoping for the best.

Is it discomfiting to watch the duo fake being lesbians to get out of being shot by Jim Gaffigan? Or is it funny to watch the scene progress as a bit of perverted dares, complete with suggestive porn-style edits, funky music, slow-motion zooms, and inevitable, shocking sight gags, where everybody seems to be in on and, more importantly, okay with the dumb joke? Again, this is a low-budget feature. It’s fine.


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