Review: Hot Pursuit
It would be so easy to call Hot Pursuit a hot mess. Its buddy comedy premise has been done to death, much of its sitcom-lite script is predictable (written, unsurprisingly, by television comedy scribes David Feeney and John Quaintance), and it has antiquated sexist and racist stereotypes at its core. But you know what? The very same was said about Outrageous Fortune, Bandidas, and the far more recent The Heat. Criticisms aside, the most important attribute these films have in common is that they’re rollicking fun. After the downright dour Avengers: Age of Ultron and Furious 7, a campy, laugh-out-loud comedy is just what summer film audiences need.
The film opens with young, precocious Texan, Cooper, whose childhood and teenage upbringing is comprised of learning from her adept police officer father. As an adult, with her father deceased, straight-laced Cooper (Reese Witherspoon) has fallen in the police force ranks by overeagerly performing a comical gaff on the field. Though she has an encyclopedic knowledge of protocols and detective terminology (one may even say that she’s the Tracy Flick of the force), her street smarts are sorely lacking. Relegated to the evidence room as its administrator, she becomes the target of the solely male force’s jokes until she’s needed to escort Daniella Riva (Sofia Vergara), a key witness in a mafioso indictment, to Dallas, wherein she will be placed in the witness protection program. Following the fortuitous assassination of Riva’s husband when Cooper and her fellow officer arrive to escort the couple to Dallas, odd coupling Riva and Cooper embark on a madcap journey in an attempt to escape corrupt cops, hitmen, and each other, and deliver Riva to safety.
What elevates Hot Pursuit from its formulaic components is its leading ladies, who are game for every comedic set piece, even if some of them fail to deliver laughs (the inevitable girl-on-girl groping scene to distract a gun-toting Jim Gaffigan springs to mind). Sofia Vergara’s Carmen Miranda schtick is utilized perfectly here as a mafioso bride who is much more than just a killer body, and she finally capitalizes on her comedic as well as dramatic prowess. Reese Witherspoon, in a role in which she could have easily coasted on her Southern charm a la Sweet Home Alabama, completely transforms into a character that is prickly and yet embracingly relatable (coincidentally, in the week that she launches her Southern Hospitality lifestyle website).
The Sister Act-like score by Christophe Beck is both a loving nod as well as a reminder to the audience that this a frivolous yet entertaining film in the same vein as the ’80s and early ’90s female driven comedies like Sister Act. This isn’t Citizen Kane, nor does it aspire to be. Let us cheer for a film that is directed, produced by and starring women and pursue a silly, fun time at the movies.