Friday, May 8, 2015
“Hot Pursuit” – Funny, but forgettable.
If you’ve heard of Hot Pursuit at all, it’s because you are a movie junky like me or are addicted to trailers. This is a movie that should have been released at least three years ago, when its actresses were at a higher comedic value. If you asked me to name Reese Witherspoon’s last comedy without using IMDB, I’d guess Sweet Home Alabama – and her latest movie, Wild, wasn’t exactly a tummy tickler. Conversely, Sofia Vergara is still a current comedy name due to Modern Family, but that show’s peak has long since passed. However, I did have hopes of actually laughing during this movie for a couple of reasons – (1) there’s a funny bit in the trailer where Vergara refers to Witherspoon’s underwear as a diaper, and (2) nobody in the cast was named Wiig or McCarthy.
In Hot Pursuit, Witherspoon plays Texas police officer Cooper – a second generation cop in whose traits include reciting police radio codes, speaking in a lousy Texas accent, playing everything strictly by the book, and setting people on fire with her Taser. In case you are counting, only one of those things is actually funny and is the reason Cooper’s coworkers refer to bonehead mistakes as “pulling a cooper.” Incidentally, the writers forgot to use this little nugget for any comedy, save one extremely predictable instance in the climax. Due to the eponymous “Cooper,” Cooper is relegated to station equipment custodian and joke punchline, but is given a chance at redemption when she is assigned as partner to a US Marshal to escort a witness to Dallas to testify at a drug lord’s trial. Daniella Riva (Vergara) is married to that witness and while they are waiting for Daniella to finish packing, two gunmen break into the house to kill her and her husband. During the firefight, two more gunmen break in and nothing funny happens. At this point, I had no idea if this movie was supposed to be a comedy (as promised) or just a straight action romp with a couple of jokes sprinkled in. The one thing I did know for sure was that Witherspoon’s accent was terrible.
After the Marshal and the witness are killed, Cooper escapes with Daniella and the main plot of the movie kicks in – get your ass to Mars. Oops, wrong movie. I meant get the witness to Dallas. The rest of the film is standard chase movie, which I won’t bore you with, but it was also the point in the movie where the comedy starts to kick in.
Even though the writers missed golden opportunities early, they capitalized on a few things, none more so than Vergara’s Guatemala-ness. Damn, did it again. I mean Colombian-ness. Vergara’s timing is spot-on, and the writing uses her accent to set up and punctuate many of the best jokes in the film. Witherspoon, while seeming a bit rusty at times, pulls off a couple of good scenes, most notably the old accidentally-snorted-cocaine gag. On that note, anyone who claims this movie is fresh is someone who has seen exactly no comedies in their life. You’ll recognize several recycled gags, including the shooting-off-a-body-part gag, the bathroom-window-escape gag, and the hand-cuffed-to-each-other gag, among many others. But that’s okay, because the gags are executed well enough to elicit laughter in lieu of eye-rolling.
That’s not to say all of the jokes in the film are recycled. There are two bits in particular that made me laugh harder than I dared hope (and, no, this isn’t a SPOILER because both of them are showed in the previews):
1. Another escape gag, this time using a deer decoy and made funny by the two women arguing about what sound a deer makes and making those sounds.
2. A gag in which every subsequent newscast throughout the film, in which the two women are being described, gave Cooper a shorter height and Daniella an older age. I’ve always liked goofy, subtle humor like that because it takes actual thought, while toilet humor (which also occurs in this movie) does not.
As decent as the comedy was, the story itself left plenty to be desired, as it was also very much recycled. All of the reveals were far too predictable and the one during the climax was also unnecessary. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it was bad, but reveals only work if they are unexpected and used as plot turning points. What’s more is that the movie fairly openly hates men by portraying all of the male characters as slimy or dumb or skittish around “strong women.” They even sink to gags with lesbianism and menstruation to trick some of the men. For the record, I have no idea if the writer(s) or director is a woman (I’m writing this review while sitting on airplane), so I can assure that this isn’t me (a man) just claiming reverse sexism. This is me (a man) claiming that it torpedoes the movie by reminding the viewer that the two leads have vaginas.
So, while we all wait for the next highly anticipated movie to release in Mad Max, I can tell you that Hot Pursuit is in fact “a movie” released “in theaters” and not just something I made up to pass the time until Mad Max. You could definitely do worse than Hot Pursuit and I think Cooper said it best when she said “we show you the funny.” No, wait – that’s Super Troopers. I told you Hot Pursuit was forgettable.
Rating: Don’t ask for any of your money back because I know you actually watched Age of Ultron again (ask for three dollars back if you really did sit through Hot Pursuit).