By Jeff Labrecque
May 08, 2015 at 08:09 PM EDT
Sam Emerson
  • Movie

Hot Pursuit arrives in theaters with a wealth of goodwill. Reese Witherspoon is coming off an Academy Award nomination (Wild) and returning to comedy, the genre that originally made her a star. Sofia Vergara is the beloved buxom bombshell of Modern Family and everyone’s favorite late-night talk show guest, starring in a movie for the first time. Director Anne Fletcher directed Sandra Bullock in The Proposal, epitomizing the female-centric comedy fare that can dominate the summer box office. Optimistic audiences want this action-comedy to be fun, a female Midnight Run with drug dealers, cross-country hijinks, and two odd-coupled heroes.  

Alas, Hot Pursuit, spends 87 minutes in the slow lane, drifting across the highway shoulder’s rumble strips with its right-turn signal blinking obliviously. At least that’s the unfortunate image painted by unimpressed critics. Witherspoon plays a competent but out-of-her-depth Texas cop whose assignment to escort two potential witnesses to testify against a dangerous drug kingpin is shot to hell, forcing her to take off with the sexy Latina while they dodge bad guys from both sides of the law. On paper, it seems like it could work, and perhaps audiences will see it through and make it a hit. But as EW’s Leah Greenblatt, who gave the film a C grade in her review, writes, “Fletcher 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!)”

To read more of Greenblatt’s review and a sampling of other critics from across the country, click below:​

Leah Greenblatt (Entertainment Weekly)

“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.)”

Betsy Sharkey (Los Angeles Times) ▼ 

“Seemingly destined to become a late-night punch line, the movie … is so bad you’d think it was directed by the worst sort of male chauvinist director. Not so. Anne Fletcher, the filmmaker behind the Sandra Bullock-Ryan Reynolds rom-com romp The Proposal, directed Hot Pursuit. What’s more, Witherspoon is one of the producers, and Vergara is an executive producer. This is an equal-opportunity fiasco.”

A.O. Scott (New York Times)

“But while Hot Pursuit makes much of the vocal, temperamental and physical contrasts between its stars—not since Frodo and Gandalf has a difference in height been so carefully emphasized on screen—it doesn’t give them anything especially fresh or interesting to do … Hot Pursuit is cautious and tentative in its pursuit of laughs, and almost entirely unsure of how to go about being funny.”

Stephen Whitty (Newark Star-Ledger)  

“Witherspoon has to try to control this situation, and her out-of-control witness—which is a little like Barney Fife being put in charge of guarding Charo. Admitted, that’s a bit of a time-warp reference, but Hot Pursuit feels weirdly out-of-date, with its bad wall-to-wall music, corny comedy and cheapskate production values. Watching the film in a theater, you still feel like it’s on VHS.”

Bilge Ebiri (New York)

“One wonders if it’s all so tepid by design because the film tries to walk a very fine line here: If these gags were any milder, they’d fail to qualify as jokes; if they went further, they’d probably be offensive. The soft-touch humor might have worked if the film had made up for it with pacing and energy: The Heat was a mess as a piece of storytelling, but its deranged fits of profanity and lunacy made up for it.”

Richard Roeper (Chicago Sun-Times)

“This is one of those movies where every time the wanted characters turn on the television, presto! There’s a news bulletin about them. With each succeeding report, the anchors reduce Cooper’s height and increase Rivera’s age. It’s mildly funny, which is about the best we come to expect from the script.”

Ann Hornaday (Washington Post)

“Witherspoon, who along with Vergara is credited (blamed?) as a producer, does most of the heavy lifting in Hot Pursuit, in which she attempts to resurrect her Tracy Flick persona from Election in a southern-fried incarnation. But not even her prodigious work ethic can save a movie this misbegotten, especially with Fletcher at the helm…”

Mick LaSalle (San Francisco Chronicle)

“There is one interesting moment, not interesting so much in itself, but in what it might portend. There’s a scene in which Vergara suddenly becomes formidable, serious and assertive, and the thought dawns: She can do drama. Maybe she’s wasting herself in innocuousness. Maybe a whole other career awaits. In the meantime, consider this: If the one good takeaway from a comedy is that the lead actress should be in a drama, that says it all.”

Todd McCarthy (Hollywood Reporter)

“Everyone just seems to go through the motions here, with no destination in mind. Witherspoon’s last so-called comedy, This Means War, was so bad that she stayed away from the genre for a few years; this outing may well occasion another hiatus. Vergara can’t help but look spectacular but isn’t done any great favors by the bright lighting and never has a moment to really register her full sexiness.”

Claudia Puig (USA Today)

“The blame lies mostly with screenwriters David Feeney and John Quaintance. Why hire a pair of guys to write a script that relies so heavily on female-centric jokes? What the audience gets is too many jokes about menstruation and awkward girl-on-girl romance and daffy, badly choreographed fight or flight sequences.”

Ty Burr (Boston Globe)

Hot Pursuit is innocuous, inoffensive, insubstantial, occasionally incoherent, and a lot of other ‘in’s. In other words, perfect product to clog up your Netflix queue and cable on-demand menu, where you can text while you watch and not miss a thing. In the pro forma end-credit outtakes, we see the stars muff their lines, mug for the camera, and generally have a good time. It’s nice that someone does.”

Overall Metacritic rating (1-100): 29

Rotten Tomatoes: 7 percent

Rated: PG-13

Length: 87 minutes

Starring Reese Witherspoon, Sofia Vergara

Directed by Anne Fletcher

Distributor: Warner Bros.


2015 movie
  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • 87 minutes
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