“Hot Pursuit” has all the trappings of a buddy comedy.
The pairing of Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara, like the recent Will Ferrell, Kevin Hart comedy “Get Hard,” is predicated on the distance between the two in height and culture.
Witherspoon plays an uptight, low-ranking San Antonio police officer named Cooper. In her first major assignment since accidentally tasering a teenager, she’s sent with a partner to protect a drug lord set to testify in court, along with his wife, Daniella (Vergara).
A shootout at their house leaves the husband dead and sends Cooper and Daniella on the run. They make an odd couple: an inexperienced but straight-as-an-arrow cop and a haughty, high-heeled trophy wife trailing her luggage.
As the two navigate the Texas countryside, they survive by exploiting the sexist underestimations of their male pursuers and those that get in their way. This is a promising enough conceit, and one wants to root for “Hot Pursuit,” the rare studio comedy led by women both in front and behind the camera.
But the slapstick of the film is woeful and Witherspoon and Vergara have little to do but repeatedly trade on the qualities of their characters: Cooper’s uber-properness, Daniella’s prima donna. They distract easy-to-dupe men with excuses of “lady business” or by kissing each other. There are incredulous running gags about Vergara’s age and Witherspoon’s supposed homeliness.
A hilarious mixture of “The Defiant Ones” and “Midnight Run,” “Hot Pursuit” is a film that lets Reese Witherspoon, an Oscar on her mantle for playing June Carter not withstanding, do what she does best: comedy. With her “by the book” attitude and Tennessee twang, her Rose could be a close cousin of Sandra Bullock’s Sarah Ashburn from “The Heat.” Paired up with, and against, the statuesque Vergara as drug wife Daniella Riva, Witherspoon is at the top of her comedic game here. If you’re a fan of television’s “Modern Family” (guilty) then you’re already familiar with Vergara’s broad comedy chops. The Columbian actress uses them well here, though finds a few scenes to do some real emoting as well.
The script, by David Feeney and John Quaintance, has great fun with both Witherspoon and Vergara and their comedy styles. A running gag, after Rose and Daniella begun to run, is that the paper and news sources continually get their descriptions wrong, with Rose growing shorter and Daniella growing older. And of course, Daniella’s massacre of the English language (“who do you tink you are, Terlock Holmes?”). These ladies are amateur bad guys but top notch comediennes and I hope Hollywood finds a way to put them back together again soon.
“Hot Pursuit,” a Warner Bros. release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for “sexual content, violence, language and some drug material.”