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Hot Pursuit: A Waste of Talent

You’ve got to give credit to Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara: they give their all to Hot Pursuit and play this silly comedy for all it’s worth….which, sorry to say, isn’t much.

For starters, it’s not easy to cozy up to Witherspoon’s character. She’s more of a comedy construct than a real person: the only daughter of a dedicated Dallas cop (now deceased), all she’s ever wanted to do was to follow in his footsteps. Instead, she’s become a laughingstock on the force because she’s so dense, a woman with no life experience and a head full of rules and regulations.

When she’s finally freed from her job filing evidence in the basement of her precinct, it’s to protect the wife of a man who’s about to testify against the leader of a Mexican drug cartel. Vergara plays this tailor-made bombshell character with all the flamboyance you’d expect.

Sofia Vergara-Reese Witherspoon-Hot Pursuit

Photo by Sam Emerson (Courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. and Warner Bros. Inc.)

Circumstances force this odd couple to take it on the lam together, and therein lies the tale, such as it is. Witherspoon is the butt of most of the jokes, since Vergara is everything she’s not: sexy, savvy, and at least one step ahead of the druglord’s henchmen and corrupt cops who are on their trail.

At least Hot Pursuit is lively: director Anne Fletcher (27 Dresses, The Proposal) keeps things moving, and the film, scripted by sitcom writers David Feeney and John Quaintance, doesn’t waste time with needless subplots to fill its brief hour-and-a-half running time. But there isn’t much else to say in its favor. It’s been a while since we’ve seen Witherspoon in an out-and-out comedy, but she deserves a better vehicle than this. She and Vergara play off each other well enough, but Hot Pursuit is strictly second-rate.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at leonardmaltin.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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