Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 3, 2015)
Though part of the broader “road movie” genre, 2015’s Hot Pursuit falls into a more specific category: the “mismatched couple road movie”. As exemplified by flicks such as Midnight Run and Planes, Trains and Automobiles, this kind of film takes two very different people and sticks them together for a long journey.
That’s what the story of Pursuit gives us. Ever since childhood, Cooper (Reese Witherspoon) trained to be a cop, and she now lives her dream – sort of. While she works for a police force, she finds herself stuck as a clerk in the evidence locker.
Cooper dreams of more exotic service, and she finally gets her chance when drug kingpin Vicente Cortez (Joaquín Cosio) goes into custody. Cortez routinely offs anyone who threatens to testify against him, so the authorities need to keep the newest witness – money launderer Felipe Riva (Vincent Laresca) – alive.
Riva’s wife Daniella (Sofia Vergara) also will testify and she needs a female escort, so Cooper gets the gig. The assignment goes south when Cortez’s forces attack Riva’s house, so Cooper’s attempts to keep Daniella safe become a bigger challenge. In addition, the tension between the buttoned-up Cooper and the hot-blooded Daniella adds to the adventure.
If you give Pursuit a look on Rotten Tomatoes, you’ll find it earned the unenviable rating of seven percent. Given that my home movie of the time I suffered from toenail fungus earned 12 percent on RT, that’s pretty bad.
I don’t think Pursuit deserves the level of critical animosity implied by a seven percent rating, as the movie’s not that bad; I could easily find worse films that received higher marks. Don’t take that as an endorsement, though, for I can’t discern much about Pursuit to praise, either.
Actually, the more I think about it, the more I wonder if Pursuit deserved severe pans due to the way it wastes its actors. Witherspoon won an Oscar for Walk the Line, and Vergara got multiple Emmy nominations for Modern Family, so it’s clear they both have talent.
You’ll not find much evidence of those skills in Pursuit, though, as the overactive, shrill script leaves the performers high and dry. Not that either one really does much to stretch themselves, as they offer pretty one-dimensional takes on their characters.
In particular, Vergara gives us work that feels like a carbon copy of her popular Modern Family character. If someone can discern qualities that differentiate Daniella from Family’s Gloria, let me know – I can’t. Vergara already finds herself at risk of serious typecasting, and her appearance here doesn’t help her case.
I don’t think there’s much Witherspoon and/or Vergara could’ve done to redeem Pursuit, though, as it offers such a contrived, barely coherent piece of work. It feels like a series of vaguely connected comedic scenarios without much forethought involved. Someone came up with situations they thought would be funny and built a movie around it.
This doesn’t work, mainly because little humor results. Pursuit throws so much at the wall that the occasional gag sticks, but not in a “laugh out loud” way. The jokes connect more in a “hey, that was almost funny” manner.
Perhaps director Anne Fletcher realized that she found herself stuck with a terrible script and decided to crank the theatrics up to 11. That’s the best explanation I can come up with for the movie’s frantic sense of pacing. Pursuit rarely takes a breath, as it pummels us with its attempts at comedy.
This flops. The relentless nature of the material means that nothing ever gets a chance to succeed on its own terms; one bad joke spills onto the screen and before we know it, we get another. Watching Pursuit makes me feel like I spent 87 minutes on spin cycle in a washing machine.
And it comes across like a long> 87 minutes at that. Desperate to entertain us, Hot Pursuit rarely succeeds. Instead, it pummels us with bad, forced attempts at comedy that leave us disenchanted and worn out by the end credits.