There’s no right or wrong in film criticism, particularly when it comes to the often curious and sometimes perverse business of comedy, but given the withering dismissals of Anne Fletcher‘s Hot Pursuit by The Hollywood Reporter‘s Todd McCarthy and Variety‘s Andrew Barker, I’m wondering how to process Stephanie Zacharek’s thumbs-up review. Even allowing for the maxim that what is screamingly funny to women can sometimes leave men cold and vice vera, it seems odd that Zacharek’s disagreement with McCarthy/Barker is not just about sensibility and tone but the levels of basic craft.
“With Reese Witherspoon producing and Sofia Vergara credited as an exec producer, the film represents an all-too-rare example of a studio comedy featuring women in charge on both sides of the camera,” Barker notes. “But it’s hard to cheer too loudly for a film that often misfires with near-Happy Madison levels of imprecision.”
“Isn’t this the sort of nitwit comedy Reese Witherspoon wasn’t going to have to make anymore after becoming a producer on the likes of Wild and Gone Girl?,” McCarthy writes. “A jaw-droppingly klutzy law enforcement farce in the vein of The Heat, albeit deprived of the R-rated raunch and out-there gags, this is a down-home comedy that should have stayed there, as it does no favors to the appealing but ill-served (and poorly photographed) co-stars Witherspoon and Vergara.
“Even rudimentary scenes of the women changing or trying to climb haphazardly out of a high bathroom window to escape their pursuers come off just as poorly executed slapstick. Running gags have a little fun with varying insulting newscaster estimates as to Cooper’s ever-diminishing height and Daniella’s ever-increasing age, but the film is essentially nothing but little and ineffectual bits of recycled shtick with no sense of freshness of invention. And the women never bond in even the most rote or superficial way that’s expected in this sort of claptrap.”
“Throughout the 87-minute runtime of the action-comedy Hot Pursuit, director Anne Fletcher returns again and again to two gags about her stars’ appearances,” Barker notes. “In one, Sofia Vergara endures cracks about her age, which one character estimates as 50; in another, Reese Witherspoon is needled about having a mustache. These bits come fast and furious in spite of the fact that Vergara looks a good decade younger than her 42 years, and Witherspoon’s complexion is as clean and hairless as a newborn’s. While hardly the pic’s worst moments, these feel emblematic of its tendency to look for laughs in all the wrong places, even if it means asking viewers to ignore their own lying eyes in service of a joke.
“Occasionally so ill calibrated that one isn’t quite sure if its title is even intended as a double entendre, Hot Pursuit will have to rely on the drawing power and generally endearing chemistry of its two stars to avoid being outpaced at the box office.”