Hot Pursuit: I Love Lucy in The Gauntlet (Review)

Sofia Vergara, Reece Witherspoon

The 2015 comedy ‘Hot Pursuit’ is streaming on Hulu  at the moment and while it was hammered by critics when it hit theatres last year, the ‘I Love Lucy’ Meets ‘The Gauntlet’ film is not that bad. There are bits where the stars, Reece Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara absolutely kill it in terms of  comedy.  Unfortunately there  are also  things about the film that do not work.

The movie, directed by  Anne Fletcher  (‘The Proposal,’ ‘The Guilt Trip’) and written by David Feeney and John Quaintance, does feel a little like a “made for TV film” or at the very least those “TV Movie of the Week” offerings of yesteryear.  It suffers from a limited budget, that cheaper film stock that one associates with television, and a lack of reality in some scenes.

For example: Witherspoon’s character, Rose Cooper is punched in the face by Sophia Vergara’s character Mrs. Riva.  The blow is hard enough that it actually knocks Cooper out, for a split second, yet leaves no mark.   Earlier, in the Indian Casino scenes, Cooper’s new guy pal, played by Brit actor Robert Kazinsky,  a criminal who is “on tag,” repeatedly punches Detective Hauser (Matthew Del Negro). A short time later the cop, and his partner, appear in an unmarked car and chase the bus. Hauser’s face is clear of anything remotely resembling bruising, nor is it even red. 

The bits that do work, do so because of the talents of Witherspoon and Vergara in spite of a  film that ignores facts to gloss over what could be termed an over-long ‘I Love Lucy’  episode with a modern take on  Ethel and Lucy.

‘Hot Pursuit’ follows Rose Cooper as she goes out on her first real assignment since she “Coopered” the Mayor’s kid (She set the teen on fire with a taser.). She is partnered with Marshall Jackson (the superb Robert T. Jones who still laughs exactly as he did in the 1997 horror film ‘Event Horizon‘) and the two arrive at the Riva’s house to pick up the star witness and his wife Daniella (Vergara).

They are attacked by two pairs of men who begin shooting at each other while shooting at the Rivas. Cooper saves Daniella and the film follows her journey to get the remaining witness to the courthouse.

Vergara is loud, obnoxious and fun. Witherspoon is a combination of the Warner Bros speed-talking mouse “Sniffles” (‘Hush My Mouse’) and Hammy the Squirrel from ‘Over the Hedge.’  The scene where she talks non-stop, and very fast, to the truck driver who gives them a lift, after she inadvertently snorts a copious amount of cocaine,  is tear-inducingly funny.

(All Witherspoon needed to do was start burping  her ABCs and this viewer would have gone into uncontrollable gales of laughter.)

There are a number of reviewers  who described  the tiny cop as “intense” which is as good a term as any for a “cartoon” type character that is so “in your face.”  The film makes great use of Witherspoon’s five-feet one inch height compared to the high-heel wearing five foot seven inch Sofia.  With those overlong heels, Riva looks about seven feet tall as she towers over the smaller cop.  A long running gag throughout the film has the press making Cooper shorter and Riva older with each progressive news report.

Apart from the ‘I Love Lucy’ feel, ‘Hot Pursuit’ also feels a little like the 1977 film ‘The Gauntlet’ (Clint Eastwood and Sondra Locke) where Eastwood’s shambolic, and alcoholic, cop is “set up” by having him escort a doomed witness, prostitute Locke.  While there are not an over abundance of similarities there is  a “getaway” on a bus, albeit without all the McGyver-ish reinforcement of the vehicle as in the  1977 film.

There is also a lot more comedy.

Reese Witherspoon proves that she still has those massive comedy chops. There is a  sequence at the birthday party towards the end of the film that is deliciously laugh inducing. It is not just the male outfit and wig that Witherspoon is sporting it is her “intense” expression that makes this so funny.

Hulu is perhaps the best place for this film. While it is fun and funny in many places, ‘Hot Pursuit’ feels like a TV film. Little in the way of bloodshed and miles from the nearest squinty laconic delivery of Eastwood’s cop who make a comeback, the film is fun if not a bit “shrill.”

The Oscar winning actress (who got the little gold chap for her portrayal of June Carter-Cash in the biopic ‘Walk the Line’) still has that comedy touch of gold that first made itself known in ‘Legally Blonde.’  The partnering of Reese and the divine Sera Vergara was a brilliant idea and while the film could have been that little bit better, it still serves up a nice laugh filled journey.

‘Hot Pursuit’ is a 3.5 out of 5 stars. It would have gotten four had it not been for the lapses of reality (bruises and their nonexistence) and the coke scene where Witherspoon is covered in the white stuff and Sofia has a smudge or two. At 87 minutes, the time spent watching this comedy is well worth it.

It may take the viewer that long to decide who is Ethel and who is Lucy, or conversely whether or not the ‘Wild’ star  is a suitable Clint Eastwood to Sofia Vergara’s Sandra Locke.

Hot Pursuit film poster


Chef (2014) Falling in Love with Food and Jon Favreau

Jon Favreau and John Leguizamo

Written, directed, and starring, Jon Favreau, Chef is the 2014 film that could and did make the world fall in love with the food and the man who brought this small budget independent film to life. Proving that a film with no violence, sex or explosive action could be a hit, the Iron Man, and Cowboys and Aliens director showed that a film about a “cook” was profitable and enjoyable.

Starring Scarlett Johansson,Oliver PlattDustin Hoffman, Sofia Vergara, Bobby Cannavale,John Leguizamo, new actor Emjay Anthony (with a cameo from Robert Downey Jr) the film follows Chef Carl Casper (Favreau)  who inadvertently gets into a Twitter fight with food critic Ramsey Michel (Platt). The feud escalates until Casper accosts Michel in Riva’s (Hoffman) restaurant and the event goes viral on YouTube. The chef leaves the restaurant and on his ex-wife Inez’s (Vergara) advice takes on running a food truck. 

The film follows Casper’s journey to rediscover his self respect, his relationship with his son and his ex-wife. The movie could be called a combination of travelogue and social media training film. Part of the film’s plot deals heavily with Twitter, and a little with Facebook, Vine and YouTube. The brilliant young actor Emjay Anthony’s character, Percy who is Casper’s son, is a wizard on the sites and uses his social media know-how to help his dad get business.

After a few hiccups, Percy and Casper clean up a junked out food truck, financed by Inez’s ex-husband Marvin (Downey Jr.) and Carl’s old Sous Chef Martin (Leguizamo) from Riva’s joins him. The three get the van up and running and they travel back to Los Angeles from Miami and stop at several landmark cities along the way.

It is virtually impossible to watch this film and not feel the compulsion to drool at the screen while Casper, Martin and Percy cook up Cubanos sandwiches.  Favreau hired food truck chef Roy Choi to provide technical guidance and consultant. At the end of the credits Choi is seen showing Favreau how to make the perfect grilled cheese sandwich.

The film works so well, in the food department, that it almost seems like a documentary instead of a movie. (There is one moment where Favreau’s character calls and talks to an agent who wants him to do reality TV, and appear on Hell’s Kitchen, “Like Honey Boo Boo?” says a horrified Casper.)

While watching the movie could well result in the viewer helplessly craving Cuban food, or beignets, not to mention stifling the urge to get up and dance to that addictive music, it is the acting that sells this film. From Favreau to the tiny cameos from Hoffman and Robert Downey Jr. (Kudos to the  Iron Man star for reminding us of those days when he played douche bags so brilliantly, in case fans have forgotten check out Weird Science, his high school character was such a jerk. Of course it could be argued that as Tony Stark, his character’s have changed very little…)

Chef may not be 2014’s answer to the 1981 film On Golden Pond, another non-violent, no sex film that entertained brilliantly but it hits the spot. Favreau pulls off the cooking in the film and his costars all perform admirably. Kudos to Hoffman as the snotty restauranteur and Oliver Platt as the food critic is just brilliant.

The biggest surprise is the youngster who plays Casper’s son Percy. Emjay Anthony sells it 100 percent and makes the boy believable. When Percy interacts with Carl it feels natural and true, they help to bind the ingredients of the film in a real and lovely way.

A quick word about the film’s score.


That is all, just…magic, like the film.

With no car chases, no gratuitous violence and no nudity, there could be many who would give Chef a pass, but the box office returns proves that many were ready for a film about food and family. This is a real 6 out of 5 stars, the math may not add up, but honestly this is a brilliant feel-good film not to be missed. Streaming on US Netflix right now, put on your bib and feel free to drool at the food while enjoying the scenery and the performances.

%d bloggers like this: