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Hot Pursuit

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Here's how moronic, lazily conceived and thoroughly Razzie-ready this comedy is. For the title, its creators came up with a juvenile double entendre that might at least have made sense had the film presented the women being pursued as, you know, "hot." But the movie doesn't even get its own joke.

One of its running gags is that the character played by Reese Witherspoon is a masculine runt with a mustache. Supposedly, the only thing hot about her is the fire she started by mistakenly tasing a college student, sending his shirt up in flames.

Hot Pursuit singlehandedly sets the cause of gender equity in Hollywood back by at least a decade. Directed by Anne Fletcher (27 Dresses) and produced by Witherspoon and costar Sofia Vergara, the movie has a single achievement: It makes 87 minutes feel longer than Ken Burns' entire "The Civil War." With bonus features.

Witherspoon plays a by-the-book cop known only as Cooper (I'd like to think that's because she's mini beside Vergara, but that's too clever for this clunker.) On probation owing to the taser incident, Cooper jumps at the chance to team up with a federal marshal and escort a drug-case witness from San Antonio to her grand jury appointment in Dallas. That witness would, of course, be Vergara.

The actress approaches the film as if it were an episode of "Modern Family" shot during a writers' strike. Her character, Daniella Riva, is indistinguishable from TV's Gloria Delgado-Pritchett — all mascara, lipstick and English as a second language.

This is how braindead Hot Pursuit is: One minute the audience is informed the drug lord is so powerful that he's having witnesses whacked from behind bars. The next, Riva's escorts arrive at her estate to pick her up, and it's completely unguarded. What a surprise when assassins waltz in and murder Riva's husband and the marshal, forcing Cooper to commandeer Riva's Cadillac and flee the killers.

I know what you're thinking. Uptight female cop, mismatched female buddy, drug lords, sight gags involving a female law enforcer's underwear — this is kind of like The Heat, right? Wrong. Screenwriters David Feeney and John Quaintance attempt to commit literary larceny, but they bungle the job.

These actresses have proved they can be funny — Vergara on the small screen and the big one (Chef, The Three Stooges); and Witherspoon in a long line of laughfests stretching from Election and Legally Blonde to Four Christmases and last year's Wild. (Well, I thought that last one was hysterical, anyway.)

But, like any entertainers, Vergara and Witherspoon require material, and they're given nothing to work with here. Jokes about women drivers? Vergara making her getaway in high heels? The women eluding authorities in a deer costume? And these aren't the picture's low points. This is the stuff Warner Bros. cherry-picked for its ads and trailers. Comedies simply don't get more laugh-poor.

Interviewed by the Wrap on May 7, director Fletcher said something funnier than anything in her film. "Critics definitely have a job to do," she conceded. But "I can't look at reviews because the types of movies I've made, the critiques are as if I've basically murdered their children in front of them."

What's comical is that Fletcher blames the bad reviews (her film currently has a 6 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes) on the "types of movies" she makes rather than on how she makes them — i.e., poorly. Believe me, the type of film Hot Pursuit is can't explain why sitting through it proves to be the moviegoing equivalent of police brutality.

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Hot Pursuit

Official Site: www.facebook.com/HotPursuitMovie

Director: Anne Fletcher

Writer: David Feeney and John Quaintance

Producer: Dana Fox and Bruna Papandrea

Cast: SofĂ­a Vergara, Reese Witherspoon, John Carroll Lynch, Michael Mosley, Robert Kazinsky, Matthew Del Negro, Jodi Lyn Brockton and Richard T. Jones

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