Sofia Vergara and Reese Witherspoon in HOT PURSUIT

Where to start with this one? When I watched the trailer, I thought this would be a tongue-in-cheek, over-the-top, series-of-misadventures type of movie. The plain, tightly wound woman meets the hot dramatic woman and the stage is set for a madcap ride. It could be a way to pass a rainy afternoon.

Turns out, it’s not. The only promise that is delivered upon is that there is are two women who differ in appearance and who are thrown together for a journey. The rest of it feels like sitting through a musical performance where every musician has their finger firmly on the shrillest note of their instrument and there’s no way to make them stop.

Cooper (Reese Witherspoon) is an upright to the point of being uptight cop who must safely escort Daniela Riva (Sofía Vergara), the widow of a drug lord, through Texas so she can testify against some other drug lords and general bad guys. Things start badly and soon Cooper and Daniela are being chased by thugs. Nothing wrong with the set up. Except each scene is played for the loudest, most obvious joke and then dragged on until there’s no more. Cooper is always high-strung and shrill, Daniela is dramatic and loud and it begins to feel like a farce very quickly.

I wasn’t expecting nuance or sophistication, I really wasn’t. It was always going to be slapstick. It’s clear now that there is a real skill to doing slapstick well. A skill not exhibited in this movie.

Vergara in her breakout role in the sitcom Modern Family, plays a similar kind of character but with a healthy level of self-awareness so it’s clear she’s exaggerating things and it seems in control. In this role she seems on auto-pilot and the result is a caricaturish performance that is hard to watch. Witherspoon is hard to listen to. I get that she’s a fish out of water and the stress is making her very high strung but no one can sit through that much high-pitched shrieking and come away undamaged.

Before you start preparing the gender-based arguments, please note that this review was written by a woman. A woman who thought the trailer was kind of funny and wanted to watch this movie. A woman who now wishes she hadn’t.