ByBenjamin Marlatt, writer at

Officer Cooper (Reese Witherspoon) is a straight-arrow, by-the-books San Antonio cop who’s stuck doing desk work after accidentally Tasering an innocent civilian she thought had a concealed weapon when he yelled out “Shotgun!”

Turns out he was just calling for the front seat.


Ha… Ha.

Cooper is assigned to escort Daniella Riva (Sofia Vergara) to Dallas while her mobster husband testifies against a drug kingpin, but after Riva’s husband is murdered, the two wind up going on the run from the kingpin and the crooked cops supporting him.

Believe it or not, police brutality scandals have done less a disservice to cops than Hot Pursuit has.

It says a lot when the post-credits blooper real, a desperate last ditch attempt by crappy comedies to make us laugh at the cast’s mistakes if we can’t laugh with the movie, contains not a single laugh. It speaks even more volumes when even the humor in Hot Pursuit’s trailer felt forced. Even some of the laziest comedies throughout the years have at least been able to brag that “all the funny scenes were in the trailer”.

As a reviewer, it’s my job to give every film the benefit of the doubt, but some movies make it an absolute chore to do so, and this is one of those films. A small part of me was hoping that this would maybe not be as spectacularly sucky as the previews made it out to be. For Reese Witherspoon’s sake, I was hoping so. Sure, Reese has piled her resume up with a list of crappy chick flicks and comedies that could wrap around the Earth, possibly even twice. But lately with films like Mud, Inherent Vice, The Good Lie and her fantastic, Oscar-nominated turn in last year’s Wild, we’ve been getting a reminder of the talent she showcased years before in films like Election and Walk the Line.

And how does she follow that up? With a forced, over-the-top performance in this crap-bomb.

And yet despite Witherspoon’s lousy turn, her performance is thespian craftsmanship compared to Sofia Vergara’s loud and obnoxious performance. In fairness to Miss Vergara, Modern Family is proof she can play the loud mangler of the English language to great effect (it helps to have a combination of great writing and a talented ensemble cast), and her refreshingly dialed back performance in last year’s Chef showed she doesn’t always have to fall back on the shrieking Colombian banshee schtick. But it’s bad enough here that the painfully repetitive jokes she’s saddled with aren’t funny, it’s even worse that her character is so grating and unlikeable you don’t care whether she’s protected from the drug kingpins or not.

The fact that we couldn’t care less whether Riva lives or dies sucks any suspense out of this film when it tries and fails at raising the tension.

Even with a running time just shy of 90 minutes, Hot Pursuit feels long-winded as it aims to justify its feature film length with a number of hackneyed subplots (a lazy, throwaway romantic subplot that makes Nicholas Sparks movies look like Casablanca, and bad guys that are magically able to know where Riva and Cooper are at any given moment with no explanation), and jokes that run out of gas by the 15 minute mark.

And there’s still 72 minutes left.

In the hands of better filmmakers, this could’ve worked. Still predictable and by-the-numbers? Well, yeah, buddy cop comedies can’t really avoid that nowadays. A movie like The Heat, however, was predictable, but the jokes hit their mark and the chemistry between Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock worked like a charm. Here, director Anne Fletcher and writers David Feeney and John Quaintance put no effort into making at least a halfway decent comedy, constantly regurgitating the same jokes about how none of us can understand what Vergara’s saying and just how short Reese Witherspoon is. The problem there is…

* Modern Family’s been making bank on Vergara’s thick accent long before this film, so by the time it gets its chance to, that dead horse has been beaten down into a pile of decomposed rubbish.

* We get it. Witherspoon, at 5’1″, is short, but this film beats that point home upside your head ad nauseam as if she’s Peter Dinklage.

Hot Pursuit is a shrill and more importantly, dreadfully unfunny attempt at the buddy cop genre that suffers primarily from a lack of chemistry between its two main stars. What few laughs the film does shockingly manage to eek out are strained so hard it could cause blood vessels to explode, leaving us the viewers jealous ’cause such a physical calamity could at least have us blissfully blackout away from this derivative turd.

I give Hot Pursuit a D- (½★).

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