I am admittedly not the target audience for Hot Pursuit, the new odd couple action comedy starring Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara. My taste sits squarely outside of the work delivered by those involved: the film is directed by the mind behind 27 Dresses and Guilt Trip, and it is written by the guys who brought us some of the most tepid series on television today. I am a casual fan of Witherspoon, but I do not subscribe to Vergara’s new school Fran Drescher schtick— be unnervingly annoying with disarmingly good looks. So imagine my surprise when I found myself chuckling more than once during Hot Pursuit. It’s a less vulgar, decidedly feminine though oddly sexist version of Adam Sandler’s Bulletproof, and despite its glaring plot holes, convenient circumstances, and cookie-cutter set pieces, it’s mildly enjoyable.
Witherspoon plays Officer Cooper, a by-the-book cop whose anxiety about living in her late father’s shadow has landed her in the evidence room after an unfortunate taser incident. She’s the joke of the office; in the eyes of her colleagues, Cooper is an endearing, harmless doe who is capable of little more than being the target of their misogynistic remarks. Due to a clause in the system where a female is required to escort a female witness into Witness Protection, Cooper is pulled back into the field to accompany Mr. and Miss Riva (Sofia Vergara), witnesses to the crimes of a drug king pin named Cortez. After a shootout during the botched pick-up, Cooper and Miss Riva go on the run from the ones searching for them.
Even setting aside the fact that the impetus for the entire movie hinges on the implication that Cooper is the only female officer in the whole police department, there are rampant conveniences explained within the story that just feel… cheap. Why can’t Cooper call for backup once the pickup goes sideways? Because Miss Riva (which is what Vergara’s character is called throughout the film) fumbles the phone and it falls out of a moving car. Why do the criminals remain hot-on-their-heels? The car the ladies are using breaks down, or gets hit by a truck, and on and on and on. It’s lazy, sitcom-y writing.
The generic attempts at laughs are also rather disappointing when it’s obvious that some jokes are specifically written for Vergara and Witherspoon, and they land with so much more potency. The simple but effective punchlines where the media sensationalizes Miss Riva being over-the-hill and Cooper being short are surprisingly funny, whereas the trite circumstances where someone uses their “time of the month” as a punchline or the common “someone accidentally inhales cocaine” bit lands with a boring wince. Hot Pursuit is at its best when Vergara is not playing a PG-13 version of her Modern Family self. Witherspoon is committed as always, but would have done better with a more mature script.
One again, I confess that Hot Pursuit is not my typical cup of tea, and it’s not a great movie, but let me be clear: Hot Pursuit is a passable 87 minutes at the movies, especially for fans of the stars or the genre. It’s cotton candy… not memorable by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s decent while it lasts if you know what you’re getting into.