Hot Pursuit, film review: A lame, unfunny buddy movie which not even Reese Witherspoon's talent can rescue

(12A) Anne Fletcher, 85 mins, starring: Reese Witherspoon, Sofia Vergara

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Hot Pursuit is a half baked attempt at a comic version of a Thelma and Louise-style female buddy movie. Reese Witherspoon mugs it up shamelessly as Cooper, a hapless, pint-sized Texan police officer assigned to escort a Mexican mobster’s wife to a court case in Dallas where she and her husband will give testimony against a notorious drug lord.

Daniella (Vergara), the mobster’s wife, is high maintenance and lives up to the stereotype of the Lupe Velez-like Mexican spitfire. Cooper, by contrast, is prim, strait-laced, very earnest and has an uncanny knack for making a fool of herself. The film has barely started than the two women, who’ve taken the instant dislike to one another, are forced to go on the run with police and Mexican gangsters on their tails. Cue some very lame screwball humour. The women are handcuffed together for some of the time. In one scene, they impersonate lesbian lovers to keep their pursuers at bay. In another, they commandeer a bus full of geriatric tourists. Most bizarrely, they dress up in pantomime fashion in a deer carcass to avoid detection at a roadblock. They bicker incessantly but the more they insult one another, the closer they become.

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Sofia Vergara and Reese Witherspoon in Hot Pursuit

As she showed back in the days of Legally Blonde and Election, Witherspoon is a very skilled comedienne. This, though, is one of her fussier, more mannered performances. As she fidgets around, getting into scrape after scrape and feeling more and more sorry for herself, she rekindles memories of some of Norman Wisdom’s lesser comedies. Vergara combines hauteur, sultriness and sarcasm in an effective fashion.”You’re teeny-tiny,” she sneers at Cooper when they first meet. “You’re like a little dog that I can put in my purse.”

The out-takes during the end credits suggest the two stars, who also produced Hot Pursuit, had a blast making the film. That enjoyment isn’t conveyed to the audience. The best that can be said is that director Anne Fletcher keeps the tempo very brisk, leaving as little time as possible for us to work out why we are not laughing.