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A Not So 'Hot Pursuit'


Reese Witherspoon movies tend to be romantic comedies or Oscar fare. But it's a different formula this weekend - the buddy comedy. "Hot Pursuit" also stars Sofia Vergara as a federal witness. Protecting her is Witherspoon's Officer Cooper. Reviewer Alynda Wheat says we're the ones that need protection.

ALYNDA WHEAT: Officer Cooper practically grew up in the back of her daddy's police cruiser. Despite that pedigree, Cooper - and everyone else - is surprised when she's chosen for a plum assignment guarding Daniella Riva, the wife of a high-profile criminal. Even Riva herself is shocked.


SOFIA VERGARA: (As Daniella Riva) Oh please, look at you. You're teeny, tiny - you're like a little dog that I can put in my purse.

WHEAT: This is how the relationship goes. Insults fly out of their mouths as bullets whiz by their heads. As the ladies race to a Dallas courtroom, drug dealers and dirty cops stay on their tail, trying to silence them both. Their ridiculous bickering is exhausting, even for them.


REESE WITHERSPOON: (As Officer Cooper) You don't have to like me, but I'm the best chance you have at surviving.

WHEAT: And she's right about that. You don't have to like her - or her movie for that matter. Witherspoon, who also produced "Hot Pursuit" along with prestige pictures like "Gone Girl" and "Wild," has the right idea. She's going after an audience hungry for more female-driven comedies like "The Heat" and "Bridesmaids." But this road trip/buddy cop/odd couple movie is tired and cliche.


VERGARA: (As Daniella Riva) Well, let me tell you something - she's my tiny, little weird robot, and I love her.

WITHERSPOON: (As Officer Cooper) What are you doing? Wait, what are you doing? What are you doing?

VERGARA: (As Daniella Riva) I'm trying to show him that I love you.

WITHERSPOON: (As Officer Cooper) What are you doing?

VERGARA: (As Daniella Riva) We're distracting him so he won't call the cops.

WHEAT: Sure, the ladies seem game for anything.


WITHERSPOON: (As Officer Cooper) Oh yeah, pull my hair - like that, yeah. Yeah, I love it...

WHEAT: They flirt with locals, commandeer a bus and duck police checkpoints by hiding under the carcass of a deer. But even they can't overcome lazy material. Vergara doesn't even get the chance to stray that far from the persona she's created on the TV show "Modern Family" - you know, the sexy, pampered trophy wife, who is admittedly far savvier than she looks. But Witherspoon's character gets the worst of it as her deep Southern accent comes and goes right along with her good sense. Take the scene on which Cooper can't quite figure out how to describe a suspect's tattoo.


WITHERSPOON: (As Officer Cooper) It seems to be a Buddha sittin' on a wave or a bottle of barbecue sauce guarded by two snakes or a snowman meltin' in the rain, possibly a peanut in a puddle.

VERGARA: (As Daniella Riva) It's a longhorn. They considered making it the state animal, but they went for the armadillo instead.

WHEAT: So let's get this straight - she's a Texan who doesn't know what a longhorn looks like? I don't buy that for a second, not from a filmmaker who knows what an Oscar looks like.

RATH: Alynda Wheat reviews films for People magazine. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.