Few cinematic experiences are as painful to endure as a bad comedy. Dramas can have poor acting and invasive scores, or soap operas incoherent plots, but their shortcomings pale in comparison to the embarrassment of a joke that fails to land. Though Hot Pursuit is not the worst cinematic experience I have had this year, its lack of actual comedy is decidedly cringeworthy.
The film’s premise is unnecessarily complicated. Cooper (Reese Witherspoon) is a no-nonsense cop who follows rules and regulations to a fault. Picture any uptight female with no ear for sarcasm that you have seen on screen countless times, and you get the idea of how prototypical Cooper is. After being put on desk duty for tasing a college student who shouted “Shotgun!” to call dibs on the front passenger seat of a car which she mistook for a firearm declaration, Cooper is finally given a field assignment.
She is to accompany a detective to aid in getting a drug lord’s accountant into witness protection. This criminal’s wife, Daniella (Sofía Vergara), is entering the system as a snitch as well, and the force requires a female officer for any females in their custody. Have you noticed yet that every detail in the plot is over-explained, as if to legitimize each item as a proper factor? Hot Pursuit is filled with these over-justifications and near constant exposition. In a comedy this is tiring, as the actual plot does not need to be so tediously detailed. For brevity’s sake: Cooper and Daniella end up on the lamb, outrunning dirty cops.
The film seems to think that the contrast between the uptight and tiny white woman with the beautiful and spicy Latina woman is enough to carry the film, but it is not. There is barely any comradery between the two, and not even any real chemistry between their characters. Both Witherspoon and Vergara seem to be dedicated to their caricatures to the detriment of developing a repertoire. The few times they do try to work together for their common goal it feels more natural that when they are butting heads, but the comedy is strained.
Beyond two or three mildly humorous moments, all of the film’s jokes are obvious and predictable. When the women have a conversation about their different clothing styles, you can see Danielle’s jab at Cooper by calling her “Officer lesbian” a mile away. The lack of actual comedy was honestly a little surprising. Noted comedians Mike Birbiglia and Jim Gaffigan have cameos in Hot Pursuit, and I must have mistaken their presence in the film as a blessing of sort.
There is also a fundamental issue with Cooper’s character arc. Character development and growth should be included in most films. It keeps the plot rolling, offers the audience an investment in the character’s future, and is much more interesting than watching a static personality for the length of the film. Cooper’s initial presentation as an uptight pencil-pusher lends itself to her eventually easing up on rules and learning to understand that not everything in life is black and white. At the end of the film Cooper is predictably more sexual, more relaxed, and willing to forgive Daniella for her crimes. There is no originality in that! It would have been much more interesting to see her ultimately rewarded for being a loyal police officer, or seeing Daniella somehow become a less over-the-top sexpot, but nothing remotely interesting happens here.
Hot Pursuit is predictable, unfunny, and boring. Unless you prefer your comedies with an absolute void of fun, I would suggest you stay far away.
Director: Anne Fletcher
Matthew Del Negro
Film Length: 87 minutes
Release Date: May 8, 2015
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures