Sofia Vergara and Reese Witherspoon in Hot Pursuit
Have you ever wondered what it would look like if a monkey threw sh*t on a piece of paper and then people tried to make a movie based on that sh*tty paper? Well wonder no more, for that movie has been made! Hot Pursuit is a movie so unutterably terrible it defies explanation, unless that explanation is “made with monkey sh*t”. IMDb claims this movie was written by David Feeney and John Quaintance, but that can’t possibly be true. Those are real human people and not random streaks of monkey sh*t, and as anyone who has actually seen Hot Pursuit—which based on box office is not many—can attest, this movie is the result of people trying to make sense of random streaks of monkey sh*t.
The most offensive thing about Hot Pursuit is that Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara are both capable comedic performers, and yet here they come across like complete assholes. The title might as well be Shrill and Shriller, as all they do is shriek at each other in incomprehensible accents. Witherspoon lays on her Southern accent so thickly that if she had opened her mouth and banjo sounds came out, I would not have been in the least bit surprised. Actually might have been a bit of a relief, as anything would be an improvement on the actual dialogue. Which is mostly in the “hur hurrr, women are so dumb” vein.
Hot Pursuit is completely humiliating for its leads. Witherspoon plays Cooper, a police officer so by-the-book she literally recites sections of the book as a means of communicating with people, and Vergara is Riva, the shoe-obsessed wife of a drug dealer who is testifying against his cartel boss. The movie is basically the world’s worst episode of Justified as an unlikely law enforcement officer and a sassy witness go on the lam together, and in an amazingly unfortunate bit of timing, it attempts to play police brutality and murder for laughs. Riva and Cooper end up fugitives on the run together because everyone around them is killed, and it plays as an attempt at comedy. Murder can be funny (see also: Fargo), but it’s not the actual killing that’s funny, it’s the reaction that’s funny. Hot Pursuit stages the actual murders as comedy bits, which is incredibly uncomfortable.
The rest of the movie is full of such failure, like a bit in which Jim Gaffigan pops in as a redneck the ladies distract by pretending to be gay and making out, or that classic comedy staple “accidentally doing a bunch of coke”. Horrible Bosses pretty well closed the file on that bit, and it only works in that movie because Charlie Day is a f*cking genius with timing and delivery. Witherspoon is not a comedy genius, so when she does the “accidentally coked up” routine it comes across as grating and unbearable. Witherspoon was pitch-perfect in Election and Legally Blonde, but she is ill-suited to slapstick and physical humor. Vergara at least knows how to use her body for physical humor, but she does not have an able partner in Witherspoon, so all the jokes about their height difference (one’s tall and one’s short—SO HILARIOUS) fall flat. Witherspoon and Vergara are incredibly miscast, and Witherspoon is in the wrong genre of comedy all together.
Good comedy direction involves the camera as another part of the bit, using it to emphasize specific aspects of a scene in order to increase a joke’s impact. Take this scene in Spinal Tap:
What makes that bit work is the absolutely perfect timing of the push in on Nigel Tufnel’s deadpan expression after the drummer explodes. The humor comes from the absurdity of what the band is saying contrasting to how seriously they’re taking it, and everything about how Rob Reiner directs that scene is geared toward heightening that contrast. Anne Fletcher, director of Hot Pursuit, uses her cameras without regard to how they’re influencing the action on screen. The result is a badly paced movie full of humorless non-jokes with no sense of rhythm. There is no universe in which Hot Pursuit is good—it’s pan-universally terrible.