'Hot' mess: A predictable comedy marred by stereotypes

Tom Long
The Detroit News

"Hot Pursuit" is basically "Legally Blonde" with a badge and a broad. And far fewer laughs.

If that sounds a bit indelicate, it's nowhere near as crass as this movie, which wallows in female stereotypes in a manner that seems shockingly dated. If "Bridesmaids" and other recent female-driven comedies were a step forward, this is three steps back.

As in "Legally Blonde," Reese Witherspoon plays a ditzy, chirpy woman so caught up in her own reality she doesn't notice how others see her. This time around she's a klutzy cop named Cooper, demoted to the evidence room after tasering the mayor's son in some nameless Texas town.

Growing up the daughter of a cop, she became obsessed with criminal codes, call signs and all the minutiae of the profession to the apparent exclusion of other relationships and common sense. She scares away potential dates, but has become a local law enforcement joke, thanks to the tasering incident.

Then along comes her big break. The accountant for a drug kingpin has decided to testify against his boss. He and his wife have to be escorted to Dallas and a female officer has to be in attendance for the wife. So she and another officer go to fetch the couple.

This introduces Daniella Riva, your classic spicy-feisty-spoiled va-va-voom Latina drug mistress. As played by Sofia Vergara ("Modern Family"), she's every Latina hubba-hubba stereotype you've ever seen — hot-headed, violent, duplicitous and thoroughly preoccupied with her age and looks. She regularly breaks into the same machine gun rants of Spanish that Ricky Ricardo made famous.

Ricky Ricardo was nearly 60 years ago. It's 2015. People of Latino descent are considered real human beings now. Then again, so are tiny blondes. But this movie just goes for the caricatures.

Anyway, upon arrival at Daniella's hometwo sets of assassins show up, killing the husband and Cooper's fellow officer. Cooper and Daniella escape, with the assassins — two of whom soon turn out to be cops — on their tails.

So the movie turns into a Texas road trip and bonding exercise between unlikely allies. The ladies go through a series of misadventures and close calls on their way to eventual mutual respect. Typical stuff.

Except the script — written by two men, David Feeney and John Quaintance — continually goes out of its way to skirt homophobia, emphasize body types and keep both women hopelessly stupid and incompetent.

There's a transgender joke less than five minutes in, then the obligatory fake lesbian make-out session and countless references to how tiny and asexual Cooper is. Daniella is in constant scream mode most of the way, and Cooper basically botches everything until her inevitable moment of redemption.

"Hot Pursuit" is ably, if somewhat surprisingly, directed by Detroit-area alum Anne Fletcher ("Step Up," "The Proposal") and at times, Witherspoon's physical chops and Vergara's comic timing overcome the script, particularly in a bit where Cooper, having been covered in a cocaine cloud, hops like a bunny through a convenience store while chattering nonstop.

Most of the film finds the predictable facing off with the offensive. The only thing hot about "Hot Pursuit" is its scant 87-minute running time. And it still feels like four hours.

tlong@detroitnews.com

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'Hot Pursuit'

GRADE: D+

Rated PG-13 for sexual content, violence, language and some drug material

Running time: 87 minutes