Sofia Vergara and Reese Witherspoon in 'Hot Pursuit'
Image: Warner Bros.

Sofia Vergara and Reese Witherspoon in 'Hot Pursuit'

A no-nonsense by-the-book good girl joins forces with a reckless bad girl who may not be brilliant but knows unlimited euphemisms for sex. Together, they somehow save the day.

Have you seen these usual suspects?

I'm tempted to not even name the two actresses that star in Hot Pursuit (directed by Anne Fletcher of The Proposal). They’re better than this. But the duo made up of these two particular women is probably the only reason anyone will see this movie. Without them, there’s nothing but a hokey story I’m sure you’ve seen many times before.

Officer Cooper (Reese Witherspoon) is on an assignment to safely escort a money-launder’s wife, Daniella Riva (Modern Family’s Sofia Vergara) to court to testify against a drug lord. We first meet Cooper as she chases down a first date, code-red style, who fled the scene because Cooper seemed “a little intense” and uptight. We first meet Daniella when Cooper picks her up and is forced to whisk her out of her home under gunfire. She hurls a high heel at Cooper and manages to compare her to a tiny purse dog, an imbecile, and a short man in a minute-long wrist-twirling tirade.

Now you know who’s who. You also probably know that nothing leading up to the court date goes according to Cooper’s perfect plan, but that it all turns out okay.

Reese and Sofia speeding away from gunfire in a red car looks funny in the trailer, but it takes more than one funny visual concept to make a whole funny movie. To make a good comedy, you have to balance bombastic characters with something at least a little substantial. To just make a scene, all you need are accents, guns, and heels.

Let me be clear—I’m not saying the sort-of buddy-cop type of comedy is a categorically paltry one. But two famous faces starring as Rule-Follower and Wild Card, plus endless gags, is a formula that can’t stand strong alone. Starsky and Hutch and Hot Fuzz, for instance, are pretty solid comedies.

But these and others like them seem to build and balance elements to create a full-bodied kind of film, rather than over-burdening a plot by plastering it with gags or leaning a lame story on explosive characters. They also refer to figures, films, and long-running jokes outside themselves.

Maybe it’s this referencing and multi-layered facet that makes a good comedy these days. Even not-so-great ones like The Other Guys and The Heat employ these methods. They fell short, however, because they ultimately hoped we’d love seeing Will Ferrell as a pimp and Melissa McCarthy as a crude cop above all else.

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This gags-are-not-enough concept seems pretty basic. So I’m typically surprised by how many comedies don’t seem to have figured this out before they sauntered into existence. But on my way into the screening for Hot Pursuit, I passed a poster for The Spy, starring Jason Statham and Melissa McCarthy. The folks in front of me said, “Isn’t that the guy in all those action movies? And that girl in Bridesmaids? Oh my gosh how could they even be in the same movie—that’ll be hilarious.”

Sofia Vergara and Reese Witherspoon in 'Hot Pursuit'
Image: Warner Bros.

Sofia Vergara and Reese Witherspoon in 'Hot Pursuit'

It occurred to me that sometimes (maybe most times) an audience is willing to come out to see a movie just for that single hilarious visual concept—if the gag is big enough, or there’s an element of one-time-thing about it. Elizabeth Banks running bewildered around L.A. in Walk of Shame made a lot of offenses on her way. Jake Johnson and Damon Waynes Jr. impersonating officers in Let’s Be Cops were straight up repugnant. Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel’s Sex Tape was just bad.

And yet, somehow, nobody stopped these sorry excuses for humor from eeking their way in and out of theaters past discouraging box office results and on to wherever bad movies go to die. The reason they made it—I suspect—is the stars. A proven, funny actress/director. The two guys from New Girl. Jason Segel after losing weight and finishing How I Met Your Mother. We know them well as one thing, but now we can see them doing something ridiculous, even if the surrounding movie is not more satisfying or entertaining than that.

So if the crowd at this screener came to see antics from the hot mom on Modern Family and Tracy Flick/Elle Woods, they probably weren’t disappointed. The movie has little more than this. There are (obvious) twists, there are traps, there’s half a romance—but these comprise about 10 minutes of the movie. The rest are just all those gags.

But if you took all the gags and strung them into a sort of lengthy trailer for this movie, you could pick some funny ones. Most of them are well worn, including (and basically limited to) the following: grossing out guys with “lady troubles”; accidentally consuming drugs; indignation at incorrect guesses of the gals’ height and age.

The reason these were funny, though, is the same reason people will see it: it’s Witherspoon and Vergara doing things we haven’t seen them do before.

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Alas, for every funny moment that works, there are those too trite to work even a little. Vergara hides everything in her—well, her shirt. They pretend to be lesbians, in the most gangly slo-mo visual stunt, to convince a redneck not to shoot them. They commandeer a bus of senior citizens who question Witherspoon’s sex appeal. A sadly-underused Jim Gaffigan shows up long enough just to shoot his finger off. Both gals have thick accents, and while I get the feeling that Witherspoon’s southern twang is supposed to elicit more laughs, it just kinda doesn’t.

Sofia Vergara and Reese Witherspoon in 'Hot Pursuit'
Image: Warner Bros.

Sofia Vergara and Reese Witherspoon in 'Hot Pursuit'

Eventually, both women “prove” something about themselves. Vergara’s shining moment reveals her to be not-so-much 100% the hot dumb caricature she seemed to be. As for Witherspoon, the good girl finally learns to break the rules and buys a pair of heels, after Vergara advises her to break free of said rules and not take comfort in numbers. This is played for a twist, but it barely counts. While what’s trending in movies is always changing, being the good girl is always gross. And eventually, she’s always fixed up with some new clothes, an attitude, and maybe a male. Officer Cooper is no exception. And neither is Hot Pursuit, in any way at all.

Caveat Spectator

Swearing, shooting, and gut-punches. Vergara wears lots of tight clothes and is seen once in her bra. Witherspoon’s own underwear is contrasted with said bra.

For no reason at all, Witherspoon stumbles upon a naked guy, who we don’t see fully. Jim Gaffigan accidentally shoots his finger off while watching the leads awkwardly make out. Vergara enlightens Witherspoon about various sexual acts using metaphors and euphemisms that Witherspoon later repeats to a bus-full of elderly folks. A car explodes and coats both women in “baking powder” (drug content alert), and Vergara insults somebody’s mother in Spanish.

Taylor Lindsay is a writer in New York City. She has contributed to Christianity Today and Indiewire.

Hot Pursuit
Our Rating
1 Star - Weak
Average Rating
(1 user ratings)ADD YOURSHelp
Mpaa Rating
PG-13 (For sexual content, violence, language and some drug material.)
Directed By
Anne Fletcher
Run Time
1 hour 27 minutes
Reese Witherspoon, Sofía Vergara, Matthew Del Negro
Theatre Release
May 08, 2015 by Warner Bros.
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