Mark Reviews Movies

Hot Pursuit (2015)


1 Star (out of 4)

Director: Anne Fletcher

Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Sofía Vergara, Matthew Del Negro, Michael Mosley, Robert Kazinsky, John Carroll Lynch, Richard T. Jones, Joaquín Cosio, Benny Nieves, Michael Ray Escamilla, Jim Gaffigan, Vincent Laresca

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for sexual content, violence, language and some drug material)

Running Time: 1:27

Release Date: 5/8/15

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Review by Mark Dujsik | May 8, 2015

There are comedies about stupid people, and then there are stupid comedies. Hot Pursuit is that rare breed of comedy that is so frivolous and haphazardly realized that it can only aspire to stupidity in its characters and in itself.

It's not just that the movie isn't funny. It is so aggressive in its attempts at humor that we start to wonder if everyone involved realized the material simply wasn't working in the process of making it. It's said that bad jokes land with a thud. The actors and filmmakers seem to believe that forcing the jokes hard enough into the ground will create a louder figurative noise and that, somehow, that will compensate for the absence of laughter from the audience.

This is a confounding movie, partially because the concept is so tried and sometimes true. One would expect at least some of it would work, simply because this formula has worked to varying degrees so many times in the past. The screenplay by David Feeney and John Quaintance doesn't overdo the plot and instead allows plenty of its short running time to letting the characters play off each other. It has two charming-enough actresses in the leading roles, so surely some of the things they do could be amusing just by the simple fact of their presence. At least the whole thing is inoffensive, but not to put too fine a point on it, it seems difficult to believe that the movie could find a way to offend even if it wanted to.

The plot, such as it is (To iterate the point, the lack of too much of a plot should work in the movie's favor, so that isn't necessarily an insult), follows Cooper (Reese Witherspoon), a police officer in a small town somewhere in Texas who basically has been raised to become a cop since she was a baby. Her father would take her along for rides in the back of his police car, from when she was an infant sitting in a car seat all the way through her prom night and beyond.

She has been sent to the evidence room as a disciplinary measure after she mistook a young man calling to ride shotgun in a car as a threat. She used her stun gun on the poor guy and set him on fire. This is apparently funny.

Cooper gets a chance for redemption when she's given an assignment to help escort Daniella (Sofía Vergara) and her husband (Vincent Lareca) to court so that they can testify against the murderous leader (Joaquín Cosio) of a drug cartel. Two pairs of assassins arrive as the transport begins, but Cooper and Daniella escape. Cooper is determined to finish her assignment, despite being framed for the murders at Daniella's house, having to contend with a pair of corrupt cops (Matthew Del Negro and Michael Mosley), and dealing with the fact that Daniella doesn't want to testify against the drug lord.

Thus begins something of a road trip comedy, in which two characters who are polar opposites go about annoying each other by their mere existence. They're also grating to us by way of their actions and personalities. Cooper is by-the-books to an annoying degree, even going so far as to recite the list of police codes as a relaxation technique. She talks "like a tiny robot," according to Daniella, who is, by contrast, brash and petty.

They argue over fashion, with Daniella being offended by the sight of Cooper's white cotton underwear and Cooper being shocked at Daniella's insistence on lugging around a heavy suitcase filled with designer shoes. They bicker over everything though really, so the specifics of what sets off this or that argument start to bleed together until the entire experience of the movie feels like an elongated, trivial disagreement. That it's between two characters for and about whom we don't particularly care just makes it all the worse. There are a few respites with slightly less irritating ancillary characters, such as a farmer (Jim Gaffigan) who shoots off his finger after getting a little too excited while watching them awkwardly pretend to be a romantic couple and an ex-convict (Robert Kazinsky) with a violent streak, but those scenes are just as mystifyingly humorless as the rest.

Look, this review could just continue as a list of jokes that don't work in the movie, such as Cooper disguising herself as a teenage boy or how director Anne Fletcher botches an already lousy punch line by cutting too early to a group of elderly people listening to Cooper describe sex acts. Fortunately, the jokes in Hot Pursuit are so redundant that they are mercifully forgettable, too.

Copyright © 2015 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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