Cheap, short and slow, "Hot Pursuit" is a comedy that never lets your forget that pairing up Sofia Vergara with Reese Witherspoon should have worked better than this.
A mismatch-misfire badly misdirected by the director of "The Guilt Trip" and "27 Dresses," it wastes the Oscar-winning Reese and the spirited spitfire Vergara, cast as a comically disgraced cop who escorts the wife of a drug lord's accountant to court.
It's "Midnight Run" without enough running, "The Heat" without any heat.
Witherspoon is Officer Cooper, introduced in a cute growing-up montage as the adoring daughter of a policeman father who did ride-alongs with him, pretty much from birth.
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A little too "intense," she's been re-assigned to clerk duties in the San Antonio PD evidence room. Until she's summoned to help a federal marshal (Richard T. Jones) escort a witness and that witness's wife to Dallas.
Vergara is that wife, a shrill Spanish-spewing caricature of the Angry Loud Latina. The job goes wrong when assassins show up, and Cooper and Mrs. Riva flee in Riva's vintage Cadillac convertible.
The movie goes wrong right about here, when the script for an 87-minute-long movie spends minutes explaining away the women's cell phones. Cell phones might clear this whole mess up or shorten an already under-length comedy.
The cop is tiny, "dressed like a boy -- are you even a WOMAN ?" And small, "like a dog I put in my PURSE."
The mobster's wife is bigger, brassy, buxom, and a flight risk. Vergara may play variations of a "type" in film and on TV ("Modern Family") -- "That's RACHEL profiling!" -- but NOBODY has ever played this type funnier. Every word out of her mouth, in English, Spanish or Spanglish, is potentially funny.
"Nice po-leeeese work Meester Churlock Holmes!"
Witherspoon puts a lot of effort into playing manic and by-the-book, practicing police 10-codes "as a relaxation technique," delicately coming up with a feminine reason to be allowed into the bathroom -- "some lady business of the tampon variety."
This never was going to be a smart comedy, but it could have worked. The script is starving for funnier lines and situations, so the two pros they cast in it strain with bits of physical shtick -- trying to drive a bus handcuffed to one another, making out to distract a rancher holding a gun on them.
No money was spent on villains or other supporting players, and director Anne Fletcher undercuts the stars' timing. Whatever might have been, the flop-happy Fletcher never lets "Hot Pursuit" get up to speed.
1.5 stars (Grade D+)
Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Sofia Vergara
Directed by Anne Fletcher, written by David Feeney, John Quaintance. A Warner Brothers release.
Running time: 1:27
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content, violence, language and some drug material