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Hot Pursuit (2/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 87 minutes.

Not for children.

There were a couple of comedies where I found out something about the technique of farce. It was interesting but I didn’t understand it. I didn’t know why it worked. Later, Mary Boland told me, “Comedy is the last thing you learn.” Because it’s the toughest. Mary Astor, “A Life on Film.”

Reese Witherspoon broke onto the A-list in a comedy, Legally Blonde (2001). So one would think that she had already learned something about comedy. Alas, this unfortunate attempt at comedy falls flat, mainly because of Witherspoon’s inability to translate her character’s OCD personality humorously. Reese plays Cooper, a cop who is so OCD that every second she’s on screen is enormously annoying. She is paired with Sophia Vergara who plays Daniella Riva, the widow of a drug boss wanted by the authorities. Cooper is sent to bring her in because she is to be a witness in a trial against her departed husband’s boss. Bad people are out to get them, and Cooper is stranded alone on one side of Texas with Daniella to get her safely back to the place of the trial on the other side of Texas.

It’s directed by Anne Fletcher, who was responsible for the dismal 27 Dresses (2008), from a weak screenplay by David Feeney and John Quaintance, both of whom got their chops writing for TV, and it shows. Vergara comes into the film amid a spate of horrible publicity about her selfish legal contest with her former lover, Nick Loeb, about who owns the rights to two embryos they co-fertilized. He wants to preserve the lives of both embryos and she apparently is fighting him. Her selfishness in this regard makes it difficult to view anything she does as humorous.

She parades around in the film flaunting her voluptuous figure. She does her best to bring comedy to an unfunny script with painfully contrived situations. But the material, and Witherspoon’s awkward performance, does the entire film in.