The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Hot Pursuit

After a string of thematically weighty pictures like Mud, Devil's Knot, Wild, and The Good Lie, it's no wonder Reese Witherspoon wanted to make a goofy, lightweight, mindless comedy. With Hot Pursuit, she's hit the bullsye. The movie is about as goofy, lightweight, and mindless as they come. It's like Midnight Run with far fewer laughs and a lot more period jokes.

Witherspoon plays Rose Cooper, a doggedly by-the-book Texas cop assigned to an unglamorous job working in the evidence room after a mishap out on the beat. She gets the chance to redeem herself when her captain assigns her to transport Daniella Riva (Sofia Vergara), the wife of a mid-level drug boss, to Dallas so that she can testify against the head of a major cartel. Moments after Cooper picks Daniella up, it becomes clear that some very bad men, including a couple crooked cops, want to exterminate her before she can spill the beans in court. The two women escape and, improbably deprived of a cell phone to call for help, go on a mishap-fueled escapade. As their pursuers draw perilously closer, Cooper and Daniella must learn to put their clashing personalities aside in order to survive.

Hot Pursuit clearly aims to be a mismatched buddy comedy in the classic vein, but with a feminine twist. It lacks the kind of originality that made the best films of this sort (like the aforementioned Midnight Run) so sharp. The screenplay was written by two men, David Feeney and John Quaintance, and it shows. Most of the jokes in Hot Pursuit are more reflective of how men view women, as opposed to how women view themselves. Far too many revolve around the two leads being overly concerned about their appearance, their age, and/or their height. Daniella, for instance, mocks Cooper's unflattering underwear and the fact that she “has a mustache,” while simultaneously taking offense to the fact that news reports keep increasing her age. There are comic riffs on menstruation (which grosses out the male characters) and girl-on-girl flirtatiousness (which one guy really likes). At no point do either of these women feel authentic. One is stereotypically high-strung, the other materialistic and hotsy-totsy.

The adventures they find themselves in are no more original. Hot Pursuit ties itself into a pretzel contriving wacky things for the actresses to do, at one point even going so far as having them wrap up in a deer hide and prowl through the grass to avoid a police checkpoint. Of course, there's also a chase scene and a climactic shootout. There's even the requisite “surprise” twist, which is the exact same one used by just about every single buddy comedy involving crooked cops. If you don't spot it coming within five minutes, Hot Pursuit is probably the first movie you've ever seen.

Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara give the weak material all they've got. Only through their inherent charisma and likability do the actresses survive this mess unscathed. Vergara manages to elicit a few chuckles with her over-the-top delivery (“That's not underwear, it's a DIAPER!” she shrieks at one point), while Witherspoon is clearly relishing the chance to not be serious for a change. The script, coupled with leaden direction from Anne Fletcher (The Proposal), limits what they can accomplish, though. It was probably a lot of fun to make this movie. Watching it, not so much.

Hot Pursuit simply needed more of a woman's touch, despite the presence of one in the director's chair. Certainly, two smart, capable, yet comically flawed women on the lam can do more than gripe about wardrobe and hairstyles and men, right? For a far better female-driven mismatched buddy comedy with a touch of action, stick with The Heat. It gets right what Hot Pursuit gets very, very wrong.

( 1/2 out of four)

Hot Pursuit is rated PG-13 for sexual content, violence, language and some drug material. The running time is 1 hour and 27 minutes.

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