‘Hot Pursuit’ Review: Hot Mess

'Hot Pursuit'

Movie Rating:

1

The only possible justification for the existence of ‘Hot Pursuit’ is to prove to audiences that ‘The Heat‘ actually wasn’t so bad. It seems strange to think that a rival studio would waste the resources to produce an entire movie simply to make a two-year-old Melissa McCarthy vehicle easier to watch. There’s no possible way anyone involved could think this thing was funny or interesting or worthwhile or anything like that.

Reese Witherspoon stars as an uptight cop hated by everyone. Her daddy was a police officer and she spent her entire childhood in the back of his squad car preparing for her career. (At least, that’s what an opening montage seems to suggest.) Unfortunately, when she finally got her badge, she was a little too tightly wound and accidentally tazed a drunk college kid because he yelled “Shotgun” trying to claim a prime car seat and she didn’t know what that term meant. (You see, ’cause she knows nothing about fun.) Luckily, good ol’ Reese has a chance to redeem herself when she’s assigned to help escort a drug lord’s right hand man and his wife (Sofia Vergara) to their new lives in Witness Protection.

Of course, things go wrong on that simple job. They’re ambushed, the husband is shot along with Witherspoon’s partner, and now Reese and Sofia are forced to be a mismatched buddy duo on the run as fugitives. That means it’s time for personality clash comedy and mild action/suspense. You know, just like all those buddy flicks from the ’80s, only nowhere near as good.

On paper, this movie had some mild potential. Sure, the genre is ancient and dusty while the plot is hardly inspired. However, the pairing of Witherspoon and Vergara has wacky clash potential. The ladies are talented, and it’s a female twist on an old timey dude-centric genre. Perhaps the movie would have just enough right elements to make this old boat float again, a la ‘The Heat’.

Well… not so much. Witherspoon busts out her Tracy Flick routine with a Southern accent and acts as hard as she possibly can, while Vergara is cast to type to do her ‘Modern Family’ thing. The trouble is that the movie has nothing to offer beyond that star pairing. This script must have been gathering dust half-complete when it was shoved into production after ‘The Heat’. Presumably, everyone involved assumed that once they got a well stunt-cast duo in place for the poster, everything else would fall into order. Sadly, that’s just not how movies work no matter how hard studio executives try to perpetuate the myth.

The script is absolutely horrible. It follows every buddy duo cliché without variance, and only delivers the most obvious and irritating punchlines to every setup (along with plenty of racial and gender stereotypes for good measure). Witherspoon and Vergara might be trying goddamn hard to squeeze laughs out of the lame material, but there’s nothing they can do. The gags are awful and their characters are paper-thin. They’re forced to act and mug ridiculously, hoping that effort will somehow translate into giggles. It never does.

The road/chase movie structure should theoretically provide opportunities for comedy cameos to force in a few chuckles, but aside from one sad Jim Gaffigan sequence, the producers clearly couldn’t talk any recognizable comedians into lending their talents to this mess. A parade of no-names and a tragically underused John Carroll Lynch show up and bring nothing to the table.

’27 Dresses’ director and former choreographer Anne Fletcher proved to have a tin ear for comedy before and does nothing to improve her reputation here. She demonstrates, however, that she’s equally inept at directing action sequences. The few times that the presence of guns or fast cars might force a little excitement into the limp movie all fall flat.

‘Hot Pursuit’ is an action-comedy that completely bombs at both halves of that equation. It’s pretty clear that the folks making the flick were aware of the disaster on their hands. The movie is filled with awkward ADR jokes and crudely inserted scenes that were obviously reshoots desperately assembled in the hopes of fixing this mess in post. Unfortunately, those nip-and-tuck additions only make the pacing lumpier and the storytelling less competent.

The movie is a collection of bad ideas and mishaps surrounding two talented actresses (one of whom has an Oscar, don’t forget) who deserve so much better than this. It’s a total mess that should disappear into obscurity almost instantly without even the faint hope of bad movie lovers resurrecting it ironically. This is one of those big studio failures that makes you wonder what the hell anyone was thinking, until you realize that they probably weren’t.

1 comment

  1. C.C. 95

    Has there ever been a better time to revisit MIDNIGHT RUN?
    Freshly out on blu ray in the UK. A bona fide CLASSIC!
    Let DeNiro & Grodin show you how you do the buddy action/road comedy!
    Where are you Martin Brest & George Gallo??!!!

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