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HOLLYWOOD — The buddy comedy is a genre that has been so predictable for so long, Hollywood has been giving self-aware winks to the tired model for over 30 years. In the 1980's classic “The Three Amigos,” Mr. Flugelman sums up every buddy comedy ever made in a three-line pitch to Lucky Day, Ned Needlander and Dusty Bottoms:
“You meet Cochise. At first you think he's a terrible guy. You fight. Then you get to know him. You come to respect each other, and at the end of the picture… you're friends.”
Sure, settings and characters change a bit between buddy films, and obviously sequels march to a different drum entirely, but the point is, no one is walking in to see the Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara comedy “Hot Pursuit” this weekend hoping to be surprised. Just from seeing the movie poster you know the story, you know the jokes, and you probably already know if this is a movie you’ll have a good time with.
“So why see it?” a fence-sitter might ask. And really, that’s an excellent question. Off the top of my head, I can only think of one reason you might actually enjoy “Hot Pursuit," and then three really big reasons to totally avoid it.
It’s always so fascinating to watch talented actors in terrible movies.
“Hot Pursuit” is Witherspoon’s follow-up to her Oscar-nominated “Wild” performance, and Vergara is an actress who owns her typecasting. While there are certainly people to blame for “Hot Pursuit,” these two are in the clear. Even some of the side characters like Richard T. Jones, Jim Gaffigan and Mike Birbiglia give their 30 seconds of screen time an honest performance.
So, if you’re a moviegoer who never tires of the bud-com formula, the “Hot Pursuit” company delivers more than enough charm to justify the price of admission. To the rest of the moviegoing world however, your fondness for the players will simply elevate your experience from offensive to forgetful.
The Why Nots
Even amongst the library of like-crafted buddy comedies, “Hot Pursuit” stands out as a lazy effort.
This is a script that doesn’t just make a single joke about someone not understanding the term “riding shotgun,” but extends said joke into a running gag throughout the entire 87-minute run-time. Characters reveal themselves as good or bad guys with no sane explanation as to why, and the entire goal of the characters reaching Dallas never actually seems more compelling than just finding a phone and calling the authorities.
In other words, the story is only used as a setup for new punch lines, and since the jokes aren’t that good to begin with, you’re left with a lot of time to consider the film’s flimsy premise.
Director Anne Fletcher is largely to blame for what’s wrong with “Hot Pursuit.”
When putting scenes together, Fletcher seems unsure of when to start and stop a take, making most of the movie feel more like community theater than a mindless summer popcorn flick. If this were her first film — and there might be some conversation about Fletcher learning from this mistake — but her abilities actually seem to be regressing from her previous efforts of “Step Up,” “27 Dresses,” and “The Proposal.” And let’s be honest, there aren’t many people at the party willing to limbo lower than those projects to begin with.
Disney fans should be very nervous about the fact that Fletcher’s set up to direct the sequel to “Enchanted.”
It’s pretty dull
“Hot Pursuit” is a summer comedy and one that clocks in just less than 90 minutes. But still, in that short amount of time, you’ll find yourself tapping your foot and fighting the urge to pull out your phone to check the clock.
There’s actually so little to invest in when it comes to character development, that when a character tells Witherspoon to not go on because she’s already done a great job, you’ll start to nod and think, “It’s true. We should all just bail on this thing a few minutes early.”
Here’s the thing, Witherspoon and Vergara appear to be genuinely invested in this project, and that ultimately buys the film some forgiveness.
Also, there are enough jokes thrown around that one or two might actually connect with audiences, and that might be all you’re asking for from the summer season. However, even for forgettable summer fluff, this is a project that comes across as lazy and clumsy. Not only is there nothing new, but the tired, recycled material they’re pushing has countless loose ends and unexplained, unnecessary twists.
The cast's charm might be enough for some viewers, but in the end, “Hot Pursuit” would’ve felt more at home in the straight-to-video or VOD market. Travis has been covering movie news, film reviews and live events for Deseret News and KSL.com since 2010 and co-hosts the FlixJunkies podcast. You can contact Travis at email@example.com.