Here’s proof two females can make a bickering-opposites-action-comedy that’s just as lousy and sour as any clunker starring two guys.
“Hot Pursuit” features one of the worst and most forced performances of Reese Witherspoon’s career, an irritating performance by Sofia Vergara (whom I love on “Modern Family’) and a seemingly endless parade of lazy and arbitrary plot twists and turns.
It’s also loud and abrasive and aggressively stupid. Just because the volume is turned up to 11 doesn’t mean the notes are in tune.
Witherspoon plays Cooper, a tightly wound, by-the-book police officer who chatters endlessly in cop-speak (“I am commandeering your communications device,” i.e., she’s using someone’s cell phone) and recites police codes such as 10-56 and 10-72 and their meanings when she’s stressed out, which is just about all the time.
The usually irresistible Witherspoon made the choice to have Cooper speak like a robot with a Texan accent. I wish she had made another choice.
Cooper is assigned to accompany and protect Daniella Rivera (Vergara), the wife of a government witness who is to testify against a notorious drug cartel leader named Vincente Cortez (Joaquin Cosio). Things go horribly wrong, shots are fired, the husband is killed, a detective is killed and, through a contrived set of circumstances, Cooper and Rivera find themselves on the lam, wrongly accused of murder.
This is one of those movies where every time the wanted characters turn on the television, presto! There’s a news bulletin about them. With each succeeding report, the anchors reduce Cooper’s height and increase Rivera’s age. It’s mildly funny, which is about the best we come to expect from the script.
We get a lot of jokes — a LOT of jokes — about how Cooper’s diminutive stature, and Rivera’s thick accent. Vergara’s been doing that same shtick on TV for a half-dozen years, with better jokes written for her, so it just seems tired and overly familiar here. And yes, Witherspoon is not a big person, but by the constant stream of gags peppering every other scene, you’d think she was 3-foot-nothing, not a relatively small human being.
Even with a running time of 87 minutes, “Hot Pursuit” spins its wheels in search of subplots and sight gags to keep from running out of gas. Cooper and Rivera do pratfalls out of a bathroom window, engage in a prolonged and depressingly laugh-free wrestling match in pursuit of a loose gun, take turns tricking each other and handcuffing each other, and share some revelations to each other because even though they’re completely different, this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship, right?
Cooper finds potential romance in a guy named Randy (Robert Kazinsky), who’s wearing an ankle monitor because when he found out his sister’s boyfriend was hitting her, he beat the guy up with a baseball bat. That’s some back story, and about as much as we learn about him. Randy should be named Blandy. He kind of wanders in and out of the movie, and we never really miss him when he’s gone.
Have I mentioned Rivera often mangles the English language, and Cooper’s really tiny? Good. That’s twice, which is only about 20 times fewer than we’re reminded of that in the movie.
Of all the dumb and cartoonish scenes in “Hot Pursuit,” the dumbest involves Cooper and Rivera and a tour bus of senior citizens. When two sets of bad guys pull up next to the bus and start firing (because they can just magically figure out where Cooper and Rivera are at any given time), the bus driver is thrown from the vehicle, Cooper and Rivera team up to take the wheel, and there’s a dangerous, high-speed chase in which cars are overturned, a construction site is destroyed and everyone on the bus narrowly escapes death or serious injury.
But because they’re senior citizens, they all think it’s hilarious and thrilling and part of the tour, and they wonder if they can do it again! Because old people are doddering simpletons, right? Heeeelarious.