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Hot Pursuit: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD Review

Hot Pursuit (2015) movie poster Hot Pursuit

Theatrical Release: May 8, 2015 / Running Time: 88 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Anne Fletcher / Writers: David Feeney, John Quaintance

Cast: Reese Witherspoon (Rose Cooper), Sofía Vergara (Daniella Riva), Matthew Del Negro (Detective Hauser), Michael Mosley (Detective Dixon), Robert Kazinsky (Randy), Richard T. Jones (Detective Jackson), Benny Nieves (Jesus), Michael Ray Escamilla (Angel), Joaquín Cosio (Vicente Cortez), John Carroll Lynch (Captain Emmett), Jim Gaffigan (Red), Mike Birbiglia (Steve), Vincent Laresca (Felipe Riva), David Jensen (Wayne), Evaluna Montaner (Teresa Cortez)

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The buddy comedy is one of Hollywood's oldest and most fruitful subgenres. They aren't hard to write. Take two dissimilar characters, create a reason for them to have to spend time with one another, and voilà, comedy ensues. As long as the two actors have good chemistry, you're pretty much guaranteed to have a good time.
It's worked in animation (Toy Story, The Emperor's New Groove) and it's worked in live action too many times to count (Midnight Run, Tommy Boy, Rush Hour, etc., etc.). Even when it doesn't really work (e.g. The Hard Way, Cop Out), it still kind of works.

Historically, the buddy comedy has been the domain of men: a goofball and a straight man, a bounty hunter and a blue-collar criminal, a fat guy and a skinny guy. In 2013, screenwriter Katie Dibbold and director Paul Feig shook things up with The Heat, a buddy comedy consisting of two female cops with wildly different methods. The Sandra Bullock/Melissa McCarthy vehicle was fairly well-received by critics and even more popular with moviegoers, who made it one of that year's biggest hits domestically. Bullock quickly nixed the idea of a sequel, prompting Feig and company to develop a spin-off focusing on minor characters. But if you're itching for another two-women buddy action comedy with some star power, there is Hot Pursuit, a film that struck out with both critics and moviegoers this past May.

Daniella Riva (Sofia Vergara) and Rose Cooper (Reese Witherspoon) get covered in "baking powder" in the 2015 buddy action comedy "Hot Pursuit."

Rose Cooper (Reese Witherspoon) has followed in the footsteps of her father and joined the San Antonio Police Department. This no-nonsense southern gal is a glorified secretary working the evidence room. Following an embarrassing incident involving a Taser, her surname has become a verb officers use to describe a blunder. Nonetheless, being a woman in a man's world gets her a special assignment: to escort Daniella Riva (Sofía Vergara), the wife of a man who is about to turn informant against powerful drug cartel leader Vicente Cortez. The Rivas are to be transported to Dallas for Felipe to testify and then enter the witness protection program. But, fate intervenes and two different pairs of men descend on the couple's home before their ride to safety.

Thinking on her feet, Cooper whisks Daniella away in one of her husband's cars, only to hear on police radars that Cooper is being blamed for the deadly house incident and accused of being dirty. Now, these two contrary women -- short, by-the-book, perpetually single and genderless Cooper and the feisty, voluptuous trophy wife Daniella -- are on the run, with no one to turn to. The misadventures placed in the ladies' shared path by sitcom veterans David Feeney ("According to Jim", "New Girl") and John Quaintance ("Joey", "Whitney") are far from entertaining or exciting. These episodes are the stuff of stupid sitcoms. There's a redneck (Jim Gaffigan) who is distracted by some feigned lesbianism. The ladies cite menstrual problems to get out of another jam. Daniella uses her cleavage to escape notice from a gas station clerk. There's an ex-con (Robert Kazinsky) with an ankle monitor who is along for the ride when his truck is stolen.

Burned-in English subtitles translate when these bilingual ladies (Sofia Vergara and Reese Witherspoon) take their bickering into Spanish.

The screenplay scrapes the bottom of the barrel creatively and it's not as if Witherspoon and Vergara are gifted enough comedians to make the material work anyway.
The silence that will meet such uninspired gags is deafening. And yes, I'm using clichés because I can think of no better way to convey the low intelligence and high fatigue of this schlocky romp. The one running gag that comes close to amusing -- television news reports keep lowering Cooper's height and raising Daniella's age -- was spoiled by the trailer that falsely indicated the film could be a passable diversion. Instead, it is almost certain to rank among the year's worst comedies. Look out Pixels: you've got some Razzie competition.

Witherspoon quickly undoes the goodwill she earned in her banner 2014, a rebound year of Wild, Gone Girl (which she produced), The Good Lie, and Inherent Vice. She's shown her worth dramatically and entertained in the right kind of gentle romantic comedy, but doesn't come close to making her twanged doofus sympathetic in the slightest. Vergara, whose thick Colombian accent is clearly not something she can turn on and off, shows little interest in expanding her range or seizing the rare Latina leading role. Her curvy firecracker keeps outsmarting and putting down her inept Caucasian protector, a design that grows tiresome in a hurry.

The supporting cast is too insignificant on this two-hander to assign any blame or credit. That leaves us with only one other person to fault for the movie's failures: Anne Fletcher, whose rise from choreographer to film director seemed deserved on decent romcoms like 27 Dresses and The Proposal. In the six years since that Bullock blockbuster, though, Fletcher hasn't shown growth, relying on stale formula on the watchable yet forgettable The Guilt Trip. Hot Pursuit is easily Fletcher's worst film since her clumsy yet fitting directorial debut, Step Up, and her uninspiring career trajectory makes you wonder if Disney shouldn't just pull the plug on the slow-developing Enchanted sequel to which she has been attached for five and a half years. That was a great movie, but it doesn't need such an untimely sequel and not one with Fletcher at the helm.

Drawing the worst reviews of the summer movies given wide release thus far (a Rotten Tomatoes approval rating of just 8%), Hot Pursuit grossed just $34.6 million domestically and $11.1 million in foreign markets, keeping it far from profitability even on its relatively modest (for a summer movie) budget of $35 million. The movie wastes no time coming to home video, hitting Blu-ray combo pack and DVD tomorrow from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

Hot Pursuit: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack cover art - click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

2.40:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: 5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (English DVS, French, Spanish, Portuguese)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, Descriptive Service, French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish; BD-only: Portuguese
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: August 11, 2015
Suggested Retail Price: $35.99
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-50 & DVD-9)
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as standalone DVD ($28.98 SRP) and on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Say what you want about the movie, but it at least looks reasonably polished. The Blu-ray's sharp, pristine 2.40:1 transfer shows no flaws, only some questionable technical choices (like the occasional lack of camera focus and an overreliance on obvious green screen). The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio is consistent and potent. The scattered Spanish dialogue is translated by burned-in English subtitle.

Sofia Vergara and Reese Witherspoon laugh about their shared hijinks in "Action Like a Lady." Jim Gaffigan's redneck is among the minor characters resurfacing in the "alternate ending."

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The first of the Blu-ray's four short HD extras is "The Womance" (3:05), which gathers outtakes, behind-the-scenes footage, and some comments from the leading ladies.

If you didn't love the movie, you'll find this intolerable.

"Hot Pursuit: Say What?" (3:46) compiles Sofía Vergara's struggles with the English language and Reese Witherspoon's difficulties with her brief Spanish bits. A lot of the material features among the end credits' goofs.

"Action Like a Lady" (2:26) provides a look at the movie's stunts. Glimpses of the precautions taken -- stand-ins, wires -- do not make the derring-do any more captivating.

Finally, we get an "alternate ending" (1:28) which collects confessionals from the movie's predominantly male supporting characters. It clearly was not intended to end the film.

Though far from capacity, the DVD only includes one of these four bonus features: "The Womance."

The Blu-ray opens with a trailer for The Intern and a promo for Digital HD. The DVD begins with trailers for Max, Entourage, San Andreas, and Digital HD.

The menu simply applies score to the poster/cover art.

An insert supplying Digital HD code is all that joins the two fuchsia-labeled discs inside the slipcovered eco-friendly keepcase.

Daniella Riva (Sofia Vergara) and Rose Cooper (Reese Witherspoon) see themselves described in news reports as dangerous fugitives.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Hot Pursuit wants to play like a PG-13 version of The Heat, but it plays more like an awful Miss Congeniality sequel, with comedy that doesn't make you laugh and action you won't take seriously. If there's a redeeming value to this buddy movie, I haven't found it.

Warner's Blu-ray combo pack boasts great picture and sound, but just a small handful of bonus features unlikely to enhance what little appreciation you can muster for the film.

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Related Reviews:
Reese Witherspoon: Sweet Home AlabamaThis Means WarFour ChristmasesThe Good LieHow Do You KnowDevil's Knot
Sofía Vergara: Modern Family: The Complete First SeasonFading GigoloThe Three StoogesThe Smurfs
Michael Mosley: Scrubs: The Complete Ninth Season | John Carroll Lynch: ZodiacFargoCrazy, Stupid, Love.
Directed by Anne Fletcher: The Guilt TripThe ProposalStep Up
Buddy Comedies: Planes, Trains & AutomobilesThe Bounty HunterThe Emperor's New GrooveTammy
New: Adult BeginnersBurying the ExDescendantsEvery Secret ThingBlast from the Past

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Reviewed August 10, 2015.



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