Screened Out – Hot Pursuit

By : Stephen Miller
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Reese Witherspoon, Sofia Vergara, John Carroll Lynch

Hot Pursuit is not hot, nor should it be pursued. Someone should be arrested for making this crud. This is a common 1980s buddy comedy that would’ve died a painful death back then. Nowadays, it’s DOA. That’s because Hot Pursuit just isn’t funny. At all. Instead, it’s sexist, shallow, and totally unsurprising.

Witherspoon is the daughter of a cop who’s died in the line of duty. (For a comedy, this flashback is a shockingly grim start.) She grows up to become an uptight San Antonio officer recently caught up in an ugly Taser incident. (Unfortunately, this sequence reminds us of recent police violence, so that’s also a comedy crime.) To redeem herself, Witherspoon gets assigned to protect Vergara. The curvy Colombian is the wife of a man tied up in a drug mafia. After her husband is slaughtered (also not funny – three strikes against comedy), Vergara becomes the only one who can guarantee a conviction of the evil, stereotypical kingpin, currently on trial.

Vergara, director Ann Fletcher, and Witherspoon helped produce Hot Pursuit, so it's hard to blame male-dominated Hollywood for this dreck.

Vergara, director Anne Fletcher, and Witherspoon helped produce Hot Pursuit, so it’s hard to blame male-dominated Hollywood for this dreck.

In reality, the whole movie is a trial. For the audience.

Witherspoon and Vergara then go on the run across Texas, pursued by some of the most amazingly resourceful criminals. These henchmen have access to information that puts the cops to shame. Mistaken for criminals, the women are even pursued by Witherspoon’s coworkers.

Let’s discuss the guilty parties of Hot Pursuit. Perhaps you shouldn’t hire the guys who wrote TV’s New Girl and Undateable (David Feeney and John Quaintance, respectively). Either hemmed in by their gender or their sitcom mentality, Feeney and Quaintance resort to menstruation jokes, lesbian gags, and montages where sexy Vergara wiggles and jiggles prudish Witherspoon into blushing. Running bits about ageism and hairy upper lips never elicit a laugh. The constant quips about Witherspoon’s height made me want to commit assault and battery.

I expected a little more from director Anne Fletcher. Her 2009 film The Proposal had some great slapstick. Her less surprising film 27 Dresses at least had charm.

The ugliest and most damning charges, though, fall on Vergara and Witherspoon. First of all, Vergara should’ve picked a better project for her first movie lead. Secondly, both women needed to seriously examine their screen tests; then they would’ve known that this film and their acting lacked any chemistry whatsoever.

Vergara is left amping up her Colombian version of Charo to the point of self-shaming. Witherspoon flounders around without a spark of authenticity to her drab character. Considering Witherspoon first got our attention in Election and Legally Blond, comedy should be an easy beat for her.

Ratings Key

See it now! Buy the DVD! Quote lines at parties!

Definitely worth the price of admission

It’s useful as a distraction

Maybe if someone else pays and you need a nap

Slightly worse than eternal damnation

Both Vergara and Witherspoon produced this film. It’s shocking Witherspoon would make such a horrible misstep. Just last year, she also produced Gone Girl and Wild, two very watchable films – one earning her another acting nomination. The painfully unfunny Hot Pursuit is an ugly, shameful black mark on everyone’s record, but it’s most disappointing on Witherspoon’s.

The truth is that there are more intelligent comedies to be made about women. Hot Pursuit should be locked away and forgotten.

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