by: S. Scott Stamikmas
In the summer blockbuster season, every movie can’t be a big budget action flick. We need some smaller, character-driven films or some lighthearted comedies to watch in between the studio tent-poles – almost the cinematic equivalent to cleansing the palate between courses. I usually look forward to these films as much as the blockbusters themselves. Sadly, Hot Pursuit did not turn out to be one of these films.
We start by watching a young Rose Cooper, daughter of a committed police officer, grow up before our eyes while essentially being raised in the back of her father’s squad car. The young woman joins him on shifts while dear old dad catches perps and bags bad guys, all the while being molded into the woman that we’ll eventually have to deal with for the next 90 minutes. Flash forward to the present and we see career-oriented Officer Cooper (Reese Witherspoon), an evidence room clerk who has been shifted to the bottom of the rung after an accident involving a young man, a beer and a taser. Officer Cooper is given a chance to earn her way back into the field – all she has to do is accompany Mrs. Riva (Sophia Vergara) as the feds transfer her and her husband to a federal courthouse where her hubby is all set to testify against the drug cartel that he works for.
Unfortunately for both women, other interested parties have different plans. After a shootout kills the snitch and the agent tasked to protect him, the two women go on the run. Cooper sees it as her duty to still deliver Mrs. Riva into federal custody, while the cartel widow has no intention of going anywhere near a courthouse as she sees that as her immediate death.
It’s soon revealed that someone is trying to flush the women out, as Cooper is branded a rogue officer and the duo are labeled on the news as fugitives. Now these two reluctant allies must learn to cooperate if they ever want to survive the attentions of cartel hitmen, dirty cops and the general public that has seen their pictures on the news if they ever want to make it to safety and clear their names.
This was a huge miss in the career of Reese Witherspoon. I understand the need to do different things. Mark Wahlberg practically has it down to a science – action movie, stupid comedy, action movie, stupid comedy with a serious drama sprinkled in every other year to make sure people know you’ve got skills. Witherspoon has had her share as well, with some projects not so well received. For every Election we got Sweet Home Alabama. Whenever we got a Walk the Line, inevitably there was a Legally Blonde 2 waiting around the corner. Her last film, Wild, was a huge success amongst critics and even earned her an Oscar nod for Lead Actress. To have Hot Pursuit follow that up just seems wrong in so many ways.
And Sophia Vergara should not be co-headlining a feature film. Her characterization was narrow (although I’m almost positive the script didn’t give her much to work with) and her acting skills in this amounted to her caterwauling and practically screeching a good portion of her lines in a high pitched whine. I can see now why she’s such a big hit on TV – she’s tolerable in small doses. If I see her name anywhere near the main cast for a film again I’m going to have to think long and hard about whether I want to put myself through that again.
Director Anne Fletcher and screenwriters David Feeney and John Quaintance tried to give us an updated version (of sorts) of Midnight Run, but only supplied us with an ersatz copy. It would seem the extent of the humor was supposed to come from the odd couple pairing of the leading ladies, but the onscreen chemistry between the two just wasn’t there.
With jokes that fell flat more often than not, Hot Pursuit felt more like a mild chase that you can see at your own risk.