Tag Archives: Reese Witherspoon

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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‘Vice’ is Nice

’70s counterculture detective yarn is one heck of a trip, man

INHERENT VICEInherent Vice

Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Reese Witherspoon & Katherine Waterston

Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson

R

A swirling, swingin’ sleuthing tale set at the dawn of the ‘70s on the seedy coastal side of Los Angeles, Inherent Vice stars Joaquin Phoenix as a keep-on-truckin’ private investigator coasting on a cloud of dope smoke, Josh Brolin as a hippie-hating L.A.P.D. detective who likes licking on chocolate-covered bananas, and a cavalcade of other characters who pop in and out to move the story along.

Director Paul Thomas Anderson’s dark-comedy adaptation of author Thomas Pynchon’s 2009 crime-noir/counterculture novel is a thing of cinematic achievement, fitting in comfortably with his other critically lauded films, There Will Be Blood, The Master and Boogie Nights. And it’s also one heck of a trip, man.

Phoenix plays Doc Sportello, who’s hired by a damsel in distress, his ex-lover Shasta Fey Hepworth (Katherine Waterston, actor Sam’s daughter), to investigate the disappearance of her new boyfriend, a wealthy real-estate tycoon, possibly arranged by his wife. But when Shasta Fey also goes missing, Doc realizes that he’s dealing with a love triangle that’s become an even bigger, much more unwieldy geometric tangle.

INHERENT VICE

Owen Wilson

How much bigger, and how complex? Well, there are Nazis, black power groups, a mysterious offshore schooner, a cabal of heroin-smuggling dentists, a surf-saxophone legend (Owen Wilson) who’s faked his own death, Eric Roberts in a looney bin, Reese Witherspoon as a federal district attorney who likes an occasional walk on the wild side, and a massage-parlor hoochie-coochie mama whispering a cryptic warning: “Beware the Golden Fang.”

As Doc tries to sort out who’s who and what’s what, things keep getting weirder and wilder. The characters’ names give you some idea of the story’s stoned-out La-La-Land twists and turns: Michael W. Wolfmann, Sauncho Smilax, Coy Harlingen, Rudy Blatnoyd, Puck Beaverton.

Brolin, with a perpetual scowl and a serious crew cut, nearly steals the show as Lt. Det. “Bigfoot” Bjornsen, who also moonlights as an actor (watch for him late in the movie cropping up in a “doctored” episode of Adam-12). Phoenix sports a set of mutton-chop sideburns that look like they’re about to invade his mouth at any moment. Funnyman Martin Short gets only 10 minutes onscreen as a lecherous dentist, but he makes the most of every second. Witherspoon and Phoenix have one entire conversation against the backdrop of a country song, Jack Scott’s “Burning Bridges,” which seems to be a nod to not only their relationship in the movie, but also their previous co-starring roles as John and June Carter Cash in Walk The Line (2005).

INHERENT VICE

Reese Witherspoon & Joaquin Phoenix

Phoenix worked with Anderson previously, in The Master, and the two have another fine synergy here. As Doc stumbles, unwashed and unkempt, through the case, he’s also stumbling through the end of an era, the come-together, flower-power ‘60s, and into another, the uncertain, unhinged ‘70s. Doc knows the times, they are a-changin’—and that wistful, wayward, weed-saturated vibe seeps into everything about Inherent Vice.

The story takes its title, we learn, from a maritime term about a piece of cargo’s hidden defect, something that makes it an unacceptable risk to insure. People—and places, relationships, even moments in time—can be defective, too, can spoil and go bad, as Doc knows all too well. But the defective, “damaged goods” Inherent Vice parades on screen only adds to the fractured fun of its hippy-dippy, time-tripping yarn.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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