The trailers for Hot Pursuit amused me enough that I thought I’d enjoy the film. Buddy comedy either works or it doesn’t, but there’s a little more to it than just blind luck. If you’re mismatching two stars, the script and filmmakers have to celebrate their differences and create environments and scenarios to get the most out of them. Hot Pursuit gets hung up on the lamest, most superficial differences, wasting a lot of potential, or maybe that’s all they had.
By the books cop Officer Cooper (Reese Witherspoon) gets a chance to come out of the evidence locker, after a notorious embarrassment, when she’s assigned to help a detective (Richard T. Jones) escort a witness to trial. The witness is attacked by hitmen and Cooper helps his wife Daniella (Sofia Vergara) escape. How can a tall, vivacious Latina and a petite Caucasian rookie ever get along?
A very bad sign is when the film has to explain what calling shotgun is, in case the audience doesn’t get the sophisticated double entendre. I counted at least 10 jokes about Witherspoon’s height, and that’s not including the ones I missed because they were so unfunny I didn’t even realize they were supposed to be jokes. Cooper’s Type A OCD interpretation of the law isn’t so much the source of any humor as it is something the script thinks it’s supposed to ridicule her for. Yes, she likes to take notes and knows all the police code, but that doesn’t get them into trouble. It’s just something that annoys Daniella, as much as it annoys her that Cooper wears unglamorous shoes. Folks, this schtick writes itself, which is probably what happened and why it feels unfinished.
The tone is a problem because it’s not real enough to actually believe any of these characters would act that way, but it’s not absurd enough to be a surreal farce. So these caricatures exist in a standard story, servicing nothing and reaping no benefits. This is a world where hardened corrupt cops are so grossed out by the menstrual cycle that they have to put off murdering their witnesses to let her handle the gross period blood. The joke is punctuated by an ignorant man question, so this is also a world where hardened corrupt cops have never been through sex ed or even Googled it.
Plot is rarely the selling point of these movies. I mean, we remember 48 Hours, Rush Hour and The Heat for the banter, not the elaborate crime subplot the mismatched duos solve. Hot Pursuit glaringly works really hard just to get the characters from one set piece to the next. The plot keeps destroying cell phones, for tracking purposes but really just because having a phone would ruin the scenes in between the two scenes where they still needed a phone to find out plot information. Even basic scenes move too slowly. Vergara eats of a lot of screen time slowly getting into a car. That could be edited to move things along, but pace is the least of Hot Pursuit’s problems.
Editing proves a problem for all the jokes, as the deer scene is edited much better in the trailers. In the context of the film, why are they talking at all? They’re trying to sneak past a police roadblock and they’re making so much noise. Sight gags don’t even make sense. A bus full of tourists look left to right as Daniella and Cooper argue, but they’re not actually reacting to their conversation.
Comedy is subjective and either you laugh or you don’t. Maybe what I described above sounds hilarious. If so, I’m happy to help connect people to films that will make them happy. And if period schtick makes you laugh, you’ll love the sexy lesbian and cat fighting schtick. I felt these funny women were capable of performing either higher brow or absurdly sillier comedy.