Not So Hot

Witherspoon, Vergara comedy a clunky, schlocky misfire

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Hot Pursuit

Starring Reese Witherspoon & Sophìa Vergara

Directed by Anne Fletcher

R

An uptight, by-the-books Texas policewoman and a sassy, motor-mouth Latina mob wife flee from crooked cops and drug-cartel assassins, leaving a trail of cross-cultural hilarity across the Lone Star State.

That’s obviously what was supposed to happen in this odd-couple matchup with Oscar winner Reese Witherspoon and Modern Family TV star Sofìa Vergara. And why not? One’s short, blonde and Caucasian, the other’s tall, brown and Columbian. They start as “enemies” and end as friends. It’s a time-tested yuk-yuk template that worked, with various tweaks, in countless other movies.

But it sure doesn’t work here. Just about everything is wrong in Hot Pursuit, a clunky misfire that chokes on the fumes of tired lowbrow gags, worn-out stereotypes, shrill slapstick and lazy, predictable, sub-sitcom writing. One reason might be because two TV-sitcom writer-producers, David Feeney (According to Jim, 2 Broke Girls) and John Quaintance (Material Girls, Whitney), came up with the flimsy concoction that passes for a script without bothering to work in anything new, novel or even halfway worthy of the big screen.

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Another could be because director Anne Fletcher (The Proposal, The Guilt Trip) doesn’t seem to have any idea what to do with her two leading ladies; maybe she was preoccupied planning her next project, the sequel to Disney’s Enchanted. Here, she mostly seems leave her stars stranded to fend for themselves in scenes that require them to scream, screech, make out with each other and crack groan-worthy jokes about lesbians, menstruation and “man parts.” In one scene, Witherspoon—literally covered with cocaine—hops around like a bunny rabbit. In another, she and Vergara disguise themselves in a blanket and a ridiculous fake deer head to elude a police dragnet. In a roadside souvenir shop, we get to see their undies as they try on new outfits, mainly so Vergara, in her form-fitting bra, can make a quip about Witherspoon’s frumpy-looking underpants.

A whopping part of the blame has to go to the Vergara and Witherspoon, both of whom are credited as producers of this schlock—which means everyone else was working for them. Ouch.

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Vergara’s shtick—mangling the English language and parading her voluptuous feminine form—is a big part of Modern Family, and it seems like everyone just wanted to shift her TV character to the screen with a minimum of thought or effort. Witherspoon’s done comedy before (Legally Blonde, Election, Four Christmases), but coming off last year’s hot Oscar-nominated run producing and starring in Wild, appearing with Joaquin Phoenix in the groovy-wacky Inherent Vice and producing Gone Girl, this feels like a real misalignment of talent, timing and material.

The two leads valiantly manage to coax a few laughs out some of the setups, like a ride with a busload of senior citizens that becomes a crazy, three-way interstate shootout. But the best part of the movie is at the end, when outtakes show them flubbing their lines, cracking each other up and apparently having a great time all around making Hot Pursuit.

If only sitting through it was that much fun for the rest of us.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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