Hot Pursuit

Genre: Comedy

Director: Anne Fletcher

Screenplay: David Feeney, John Quaintance

Cast: Sofía Vergara, Reese Witherspoon, Jodi Lyn Brockton, Matthew Del Negro, Michael Mosley

Running Length: 87 minutes

Synopsis: An uptight and by-the-book cop (Reese Witherspoon) tries to protect the sexy and outgoing widow of a drug boss (Sofia Vergara) as they race through Texas pursued by crooked cops and murderous gunmen.

Review: I really wanted to like Hot Pursuit. After all, action comedies with female leads are few and far between, and Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara are both likable actors. This also happens to be Vergara’s first proper lead role in a movie, which is kind of surprising given the success she has found off hit TV sitcom Modern Family. Although there are laughs to be had, Hot Pursuit is more lukewarm than hot, the result of minimal chemistry between the leads and a script that simply doesn’t do enough. Hot Pursuit runs a short 87 minutes but still feels laboured before the final reel, and even the gags feel like they have run their course an hour into the film.

It appears from the end-credit outtakes that Witherspoon and Vergara not only had a great time making the film, but that they seem to have developed what seems like a rather healthy camaraderie as well. Unfortunately, I doubt that viewers could tell that from the main feature itself – there are barely any sparks between the two despite sharing significant screen time. It also annoys me that – without going into too much detail for risk of spoilers – the screenplay tries its best to create a will-they-stay-or-will-they-go tension between the odd couple, creating scenarios that then limply resolve themselves in a matter of minutes without making any actual impact to the pairing.

It also seems like half the jokes seem to be about either Witherspoon’s height and boyish (??) looks or Vergara’s age and Latina heritage, and neither actress makes even a concerted effort to rise above the mediocre and rather lazy writing. They are content to play to their characters’ stereotypes, and this is really the essence of why Hot Pursuit doesn’t work that well despite low expectations: nothing comes across as being particularly genuine and as a result it just doesn’t engage enough. When the same joke gets recycled for the fifth time in an hour, even the funniest gag starts to feel like a lame duck.

The audience is never truly vested in what happens to either woman, and since this is a comedy everyone already knows what the eventual outcome would be. The journey is indeed more important than the destination, and in this case the journey just isn’t all that interesting. As a low budget contender for Summer, Hot Pursuit will definitely get its fair share of moviegoers, but given that both Witherspoon and Vergara have producer credits on this film, I really expected it to deliver more than it did.

Rating: * * (out of four stars)

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