What’s spanglish for déjà vu? There’s hardly a single moment in Hot Pursuit that won’t remind you of scenes you’ve seen at the multiplex a thousand times before. (The movie’s original title was Don’t Mess With Texas, probably because Thelma & Louise Ride the Pineapple Express All the Way to Jump Street—and They’ve Got Lethal Weapons, Y’all! was just too long.)
Reese Witherspoon stars as Rose Cooper, a deskbound San Antonio cop with the mien of an anxious meerkat and the luck of a two-leaf clover. She can reel off every code in the precinct handbook, but her name has become a synonym for screwing up ever since she accidentally Tasered the local mayor’s son (as in “Aw, man, you just got Coopered!”). Sofia Vergara steers into the casting curve as Daniella Riva, a feisty Colombian glamazon with an arsenal of tight dresses and a loose grasp on American idioms. The pair meet cute-ish when Cooper—for most of the movie, her first name’s just “Officer”—and another detective are assigned to escort Daniella and her drug-dealing husband to a Dallas courtroom, where they’re scheduled to testify against notorious (is there any other kind?) cartel leader Vicente Cortez.
But Cortez’s hitmen, of course, have other plans: Five minutes and 50 bullets later, Cooper’s got a partner down, Daniella is freshly widowed, and these two ladies are on the lam in a “borrowed” Cadillac convertible with some questionable cargo in the trunk. (In keeping with the rules of comedy, Daniella seems to finish grieving in about the time it took you to read this sentence.) Under more sensible circumstances, they would head straight to the nearest police station. But it turns out that the pair’s would-be assassins just might be dirty cops—and they’re determined to finish the job they started, so the girls have to beat them to Dallas, pronto.
And so a long, wobbly string of shenanigans begins. Some bits are genuinely funny—Cooper accidentally getting jacked on the “baking powder” in the trunk, a furious whisper-fight in subtitled Spanish, something deeply weird about a squirrel—but most, painfully, are not. Director Anne Fletcher (The Proposal) doesn’t seem to know how to play it any way but broad: Witherspoon’s character is so tightly wound she’s practically corkscrewed, while Vergara’s Daniella is left to lean hard on every Latina-caliente cliché. (Los boobs: She has them!) The script barely bothers to acknowledge huge holes in logic, and even the low-key charm of Cooper’s potential love interest (True Blood’s Robert Kazinsky) is drowned out by the constant, frenzied clang of slapstick; maybe the Taser got him, too.
The best part of Hot Pursuit by far comes at the end, in the blooper reel. That’s where we finally get to see two smart, engaging actresses with real chemistry do naturally what they’ve been straining so hard to do for the past 90 minutes: Make us laugh. C