Hot Pursuit full movie review - Tries so hard to be inoffensive it neglects to be funny
"Hot Pursuit" is a road trip / buddy picture in which an authority figure must escort an undisciplined nonconformist to a destination on time while forces work to prevent their arrival.
It is similar to comedies like "Midnight Run," "Get Him to the Greek" and "The Rundown," and dramas like "16 Blocks" and "3:10 to Yuma." It is unfair to compare the film to "Thelma and Louise" or the Hope-Crosby road trip pictures.
HP fails to achieve the modest ambitions it set for itself. It has amusing moments, but most of the film is not nearly as funny or entertaining as the bloopers featured during the credits.
The characters lack depth. We see some of the background of Witherspoon's Cooper, but the character is an amalgam of quirks, mannerisms and personality traits. She's trying to live up to her father's reputation, but he seemed to have been a simple patrol officer who never advanced to a supervisory role or became a hero. She notices a suspect's tattoo, but never noticed that a coworker has a similar tattoo. Vergara's Daniella is a scheming opportunist, but fails take advantage of obvious opportunities. She steals a gun to compel Cooper to release her handcuffs when it would seem much easier to simply steal the keys. She escapes a group of assassins to hide in the back of a car when she could just as easily drive the car away.
There is no foreshadowing. When good guys turn out to be bad or characters have hidden agendas, it comes out of left field.
Yet, most of the movie seems predictable. The MacGuffin is painfully obvious to the audience long before Cooper understands it. We expect Cooper and Daniella to wind up on the road alone together. We expect somebody on the force to be working with Cortez. The things we don't expect seem unrealistic and contrived. We don't expect the romantic lead to bounce along in the bed of a pickup truck with a dead deer for hours without awakening. When it happens, we realize we've seen it done before and better in "The Transporter," "The Hangover" and other films, although without the deer.
There are a few surprises, but also disappointments. If you put two attractive girls in a biker bar you expect something to happen involving bikers, motorcycles and a bar fight. You also expect somebody to crawl out of a restroom window, but that shouldn't be the highlight.
Compared with movies like "Ted," "Love Actually" and "The Love Guru," the laughs are fairly sparse. Much of the problem in HP lies in the script written by two writers with television credits but not much film experience. The jokes are conservative, seemingly mindful of maintaining the all important PG rating. There aren't many sight gags and not much slapstick or physical humor. What little there is, such as being dusted in cocaine, isn't pushed very far. There aren't comic elements in the background. There is a recurring joke about age and height, but it isn't very funny, especially compared with gags like the paperboy in "Better Off Dead" or the runaway globe in "The Pink Panther" remake.
The gags often seem forced because they don't seem driven by the two-dimensional characters. The early chase scene falls a bit flat because we don't know much about Cooper. One gag depends on grossing out two men with the details of menstruation. The actors give it 100%, but it is difficult to believe forty-ish detectives would be as squeamish as schoolboys.
The tone is problematic. Usually in comedies people aren't killed or crippled. If they are, they are either killed in arguably humorous manners, as in "Johnny English," "The Other Guys" or "Get Smart," or their deaths provide the basis for jokes, as in "Keeping Mum." Here, we have an FBI agent and two gangsters killed in shootouts, two individuals killed or seriously injured when their car rolls at high speed and a hick who loses a finger. These events aren't funny. The dog bit was done much more effectively in "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" and feels derivative here.
A more significant issue with tone is that the film tries so hard to be inoffensive that it neglects to be humorous. It lacks tone. It's not dark or screwball or subtle or risqué. This is particularly true during the romantic subplot when the film becomes serious.
Some of it seems unrealistic and poorly researched. There is no reason why a sworn officer couldn't be put in charge of the evidence room, but it would be an additional expense and a waste of talent and training. A contact bullet wound to a finger held over the muzzle of a .30-06 rifle will not leave a clean wound that lends itself to reattachment. It would be fairly easy to adorn articles of clothing with valuable gemstones that look like rhinestones to a casual observer. Duplicating the items in gold in a manner that might evade customs is an entirely different level of challenge.
Production values are subpar. IMDb estimates the budget at $35MM. It's difficult to see how anybody could have spent that much money on this film. KKBB, was shot for an estimated $15MM with Robert Downey Jr, Val Kilmer and Michelle Monaghan. There are no crowd scenes, other than a busload of tourists. There is one low-speed car chase. Two vehicles are crashed, but neither seems particularly expensive. The cast is small. There are no exotic locations. No CGI. No prosthetic makeup. One can't imagine they spent all that money on the script.
The biggest problem seems to be the script, which feels like a first draft for a television movie. The actors do as well as can be expected with the material. Production values are weak, but might be adequate if the jokes were funnier and/or more abundant.