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.