Film and TV

Reviews For The Easily Distracted:
Hot Pursuit

 Hot Pursuit

Describe This Movie In One Simpsons Quote: "At the risk of editorializing, these women are guilty, and must be dealt with in a harsh and brutal fashion. Otherwise, their behavior could incite other women leading to anarchy of biblical proportions ... It's in *Revelations*, people!"

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: One-half Roscoe P. Coltranes out of five.

Brief Plot Synopsis: Dwarf and elderly woman flee unsavory types. Get it? One's short and the other's over 40! Are your sides splitting yet?

Tagline: "Armed and sort of dangerous."

Better Tagline: "Mother, Jugs & Snooze."

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Disgraced San Antonio cop Rose Cooper (Reese Witherspoon) is doing time in the evidence room after tasering the mayor's son. So when the opportunity to assist in escorting a cartel informant and his wife (Sofia Vergara) to Dallas to give their testimony, she's understandably excited. Predictably, everything goes to hell and the unlikely pair are soon fugitives, hunted by authorities and drug dealers alike.

"Critical" Analysis:
It isn't like former Academy Award winners have never made awful films: Halle Berry (2002 for Monsters Ball) went on to star in Catwoman, Kevin Spacey (2000 for American Beauty) subsequently starred in Pay It Forward and K-Pax, and then there's Cuba Gooding, Jr., whose entire post-Jerry Maguire career reads like a list of Troy McClure's films.

Reese Witherspoon won the Best Actress Oscar n 2005 for Walk the Line. She was nominated just last year for Wild, and while her interim career has had its share of ups (Mud) and downs (This Means War), she'd managed to avoid making an incontestable bomb.

Until now.

Before it was called Hot Pursuit, this movie went by the title Don't Mess with Texas. The name change is probably a good thing, because had the original title stayed in place, director Anne Fletcher (The Guilt Trip, 27 Dresses) would have ensured virtually every person unfortunate enough to sit through the movie — like so many who have misinterpreted the Lone Star State's venerable anti-litter motto — would have wanted to mess with Texas in the worst way.

I can't speak to Ms. Witherspoon's state of mind when she agreed to make this. Maybe part of her no contest plea for disorderly conduct stipulated she agree to star in the worst script she could find. Maybe she really wanted Sofia Vergara to fondle her ass (can't blame her for that one). Or maybe she had to placate the Cyclopean horrors lurking at the Earth's core by complying with their inexplicable ultimatum that a movie named Hot Pursuit be released every 28 years.

Hot Pursuit wants desperately to be Midnight Run, but it isn't even Outrageous Fortune. And that's the thing; there's no reason an all-female Midnight Run couldn't work. Women can be cops (in spite of Cooper's clear unfitness for the job as portrayed here), or bounty hunters, or criminals. Hell, Witherspoon still could have starred in it, alongside — I don't know — Jodie Foster or Vera Farmiga or Emma Thompson or anybody who isn't the 21st century Charo.

Perhaps that's not fair to Vergara, though jiggling and shrieking in Spanish appear to be the primary attributes she brings to just about everything I've seen her in. Writers David Feeney and John Quaintance have worked almost exclusively on shitty sitcoms (According to Jim, Two Broke Girls, Whitney), so the cast's inability to rise about the boob jokes or deliver their lines at below-screaming volume is perhaps understandable, especially given Fletcher's apparent unwillingness to steer things in another direction.

Witherspoon does demonstrate a knack for physical comedy I wouldn't have suspected, and there are moments in the third act that hint at the pathos that might have been, but none of it changes the fact Hot Pursuit is a huge step back for Witherspoon, and a significant step ... sideways(?) for Vergara.

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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar