Review: Hot Pursuit - Reese Witherspoon and Sophia Vergara's Road to Nowhere
Credit: Warner Bros

Review: Hot Pursuit - Reese Witherspoon and Sophia Vergara's Road to Nowhere

HitFix
D
Readers
n/a
No one will remember they even made this by the end of this year

Anne Fletcher has had an admirably diverse career, and as a director, she's proven herself to be at least somewhat commercially adept. "Step Up" inspired a slew of sequels, "The Proposal" was one of the biggest of Sandra Bullock's hits, and now she's back with what looks like a big easy summer comedy hit, "Hot Pursuit."

It would be a lot easier to give the film a soft pass if it wasn't so aggressively lazy.

I get it. Formula is easy, and there are plenty of films that exist largely to play directly to expectations. Not every film has to be some radical reinvention of the form. A movie like "Hot Pursuit" is incredibly easy for the people who are giving out the greenlights to understand. "Two stars, on the road, mistaken for bad guys, lots of jokes." If you strike gold with that basic formula, you get "Midnight Run." If you strike out, you get "Hot Pursuit."

Hey, did you know Sofia Vergara has big boobs? And an accent? Did you know Reese Witherspoon is short?

There. Now you know every joke in "Hot Pursuit." The single genuinely charming sequence in the film is during the opening titles, where we see a little girl whose single father is a cop, growing up by his side, in his backseat, and surrounded by the world he works in. She grows up to become a cop, determined to live up to the example set by her father. All of this is shown in a series of sweet and funny cuts inside a police car.

And then we catch up with Cooper (Witherspoon) on the job, and she's stuck behind the desk in the evidence intake room thanks to an on-the-job mistake she made that has become legendary. She's given a chance by her boss, Captain Emmett (John Carroll Lynch), to redeem herself by accompanying a detective on a witness transfer. Felipe Riva (Vincent Laresca) has agreed to testify against a ruthless cartel boss named Cortez (Joaquin Cosio), and he and his wife Daniella (Vergara) are to be transported to Dallas where they can wait for the trial. Almost immediately, everything goes wrong when two totally different teams of gunmen show up, killing everyone except Cooper and Daniella, who are forced to depend on each other when it looks like cops and bad guys alike are trying to kill them both.

I don't watch "Modern Family," so I'm not sure how Vergara is on that show, but she's kind of a nightmare in this movie. It's the role as written, so I can't really blame her. It's like they were angry at her, so they made sure to make her shrill and spoiled and mean for no real reason, and the way Fletcher shoots her and the way she's costumed, her sexuality is a cartoon. I can't even describe it as offensive, because it's not like they treat Witherspoon any better. It's just bad writing. And the film's central "mystery" is pathetic, obvious from the beginning and it plays out as if we're supposed to suddenly take things seriously in terms of stakes.

David Feeney and John Quaintance both do a lot of television work, and one of the advantages of TV comedy is that you can start from a fairly broad character and, over time, learn what is great about the performer and the character both, and you can turn a big archetype into a human being over time. In an 87-minute film, especially one as mechanically plotted as this, all you ever get is that first broad level. Oliver Stapleton's photography is that bright washed out ugly that studios love for their mainstream comedies, appropriately anonymous, but it doesn't do either of the leads any favors at all.

It's hard to even get worked up about a film like this. It hurts when you see someone make a film that feels like they were trying their hardest but didn't make it. It can be frustrating when you see something where you radically disagree with the choices the filmmaker made. But a movie like this? I can't work up much passion about it at all, and it doesn't feel like anyone was particularly moved at any point in the process. By the end of the year, I'd be surprised if even the stars remember it happened. "Hot Pursuit" is just a placeholder until the next few big summer movies open, a write-off both creatively and, most likely, financially.

"Hot Pursuit" is in theaters Friday.

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Sony's supposed short list of 'Spider-Man' directors does not inspire confidence
Credit: Sony Pictures

Sony's supposed short list of 'Spider-Man' directors does not inspire confidence

Sony's got a lot riding on getting this choice right

There is a terrifically unkind way to report today's story, and a quick scan of Twitter should give you some idea of just how strong a reaction some people are having to the short list of directors that Deadline claims are in the mix to direct Sony's upcoming reboot of "Spider-Man."

First thought: Miller and Lord are making the wrong movie for the studio.

Second thought: why is this so difficult for Sony?

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New 'Indiana Jones' gets a little tiny bit more official
Credit: Paramount/Lucasfilm

New 'Indiana Jones' gets a little tiny bit more official

Now watch everyone overreact in their headlines today

Here's a good way to test reading comprehension.

Let's see how many people run stories today in which they state that it's now confirmed that Chris Pratt will be in an Indiana Jones movie.

Those stories, when they run, will be wrong. It will be a beautiful example of the way people connect dots, whether those dots are meant to be connected or not.

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'Hobbit' star Martin Freeman joins cast of 'Captain America: Civil War'
Credit: BBC

'Hobbit' star Martin Freeman joins cast of 'Captain America: Civil War'

Martin Freeman has joined the cast of "Captain America: Civil War."

Freeman's one of those guys who sort of bubbled along for a while, recognizable from his work on "The Office," but hardly a household name, and then all of a sudden he went nuclear. Between "Sherlock" and the "Hobbit" movies, he has become far more recognizable and culturally omnipresent in the last five years, and I'm all for it. He turns in continuously great work in everything, and I love seeing him in something like last year's "Fargo," something I would have never expected to see him in.

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Review: Schwarzenegger tries to stretch in slow-burn zombie film 'Maggie'
Credit: Lionsgate

Review: Schwarzenegger tries to stretch in slow-burn zombie film 'Maggie'

HitFix
C
Readers
n/a
Oddly, it's the filmmakers who fumble this one

For someone who has been making films as long as he has, there is a surprisingly short list of films where I would argue that Arnold Schwarzenegger gives genuinely good performances.

As a movie star, he doesn't really have to give good performances. That's one of the things that makes being a movie star so weird. There are legitimate legendary movie stars who have never given what I would call a good performance, but who do their jobs perfectly well. Being a movie star is far more about having a particular personality that you bring to every role. Most of the most famous Schwarzenegger films, he's just playing variations on himself. Even though I adore films like "Conan The Barbarian" and the first two "Terminator" films, I think his work in them is good because the directors of those films knew exactly what they wanted out of Schwarzenegger, and they practically build the films around him.

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It's official! Keanu will shoot even more faces in 'John Wick 2'
Credit: Lionsgate/Summit

It's official! Keanu will shoot even more faces in 'John Wick 2'

Lionsgate/Summit just sent out the announcement, and it's as direct as possible.

There will be a "John Wick 2."

Keanu Reeves will return as the dog-loving hit man with a fondness for shooting people in the face.

David Leitch and Chad Stahelski will return as directors.

And Derek Kolstad will once again write the film.

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Robin Williams and Simon Pegg try 'Absolutely Anything' for laughs
Credit: Lionsgate

Robin Williams and Simon Pegg try 'Absolutely Anything' for laughs

This not-quite Python reunion will be in UK theaters at the end of the summer

I am at peace with the notion of no more Monty Python.

Honestly, once Graham Chapman passed, so did the moment. As much as I love each of the individual Python performers, I feel like the entire group has to be present for it to really be considered Monty Python. You can put Paul McCartney onstage with Ringo Starr these days, but that's not The Beatles. The same thing is true with the remaining guys from Python. I'm happy to see them work together, but whatever they are, they aren't really Python anymore.

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A closer look at the outrageous costumes of 'Mad Max: Fury Road'
Credit: Warner Bros.

A closer look at the outrageous costumes of 'Mad Max: Fury Road'

The details are part of what helps sell the reality of George Miller's world

The last time I saw Warner Bros. put together a big soundstage full of costumes for a film, it was "Man Of Steel," and my kids loved getting the chance to get close up to Superman's costume or the twisted bank vault door.

At Friday's "Mad Max: Fury Road" press day, they had a soundstage set up for all of the interviews and then also to display some of the costuming from the movie. While I'm embargoed until May 12th on the film itself, I'm allowed to say that there is a remarkable depth to the world that Miller has created this time around. The budget for "Fury Road" is more than all three of the other films combined, and then some, and it seems like a lot of that was used to help build a physical world in which Miller and his cast could get lost.

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Josh Trank's departure from 'Star Wars' sets off a cavalcade of rumors
Credit: 20th Century Fox

Josh Trank's departure from 'Star Wars' sets off a cavalcade of rumors

It seems like a case of occupational cruelty to us

Josh Trank will no longer direct a "Star Wars Anthology" film.

That is the extent of the story that is being accurately and responsibly reported tonight. What you will also see if you start clicking on Josh Trank stories is a whole lot of smug "Told you so" shade being thrown at the filmmaker as people clamor to make sure you know that they'd heard some rumors. Rumors that none of them, for fairly obvious reasons, were willing to run as news on their sites, and therefore rumors that they should not be reporting now.

UPDATE: There is an article on Hollywood Reporter's website that was published after this piece went up. To be clear, this is not about the work of Borys Kit and Kim Masters, who are very good at what they do, but is instead about reporters speaking in vague terms on Twitter and other social media without being willing to actually print the stories they are referring to.

For the record, I don't know what went on with Josh Trank on the "Star Wars" film he was attached to, and I don't know what went on with Josh Trank on the set of "Fantastic Four," either. What I do know is that rumors can do just as much damage as fact in this town, if not more. Rumor is easier to pass along, because all you have to do is qualify it as "rumor," and then you're off the hook. That's if you're doing it in person. I would tread very lightly if I were thinking about publishing a story tonight about any of those rumors. If you didn't have a second source or someone willing to go on the record yesterday, you still don't today, and just because Trank and Disney sent out a press release does not suddenly give you room to start spilling all the rumor you want.

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Marvel's Kevin Feige is giddy to welcome Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange
Credit: HitFix

Marvel's Kevin Feige is giddy to welcome Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange

And Cumberbatch is pretty excited in his own right

Has it really only been seven years since "Iron Man"?

If it seems like a lifetime ago to me, I can't imagine what it feels like to Kevin Feige, who has been right there at ground zero the entire time. When we sat down to talk at the press day for "Avengers: Age Of Ultron," I wanted to find out how he feels when he looks around right now at the rest of Hollywood, everyone struggling to play the same game Marvel's playing, imitating what they've done, scrambling to create shared universes.

We also talked about the upcoming "Doctor Strange," which represents a personal victory for Feige, who has been a long-confessed super fanboy for the character. It sounds like they found the right guy to play the part, though, because he says Cumberbatch is just as big a fan. Marvel should just make a video of the two of them talking about old Doctor Strange comics so people can see that giddy energy for themselves.

The thing I respect the most about Feige is his focus. It seems very simple when you look at the way Marvel's films have been produced and released so far, but at each step, there have been very vocal doubters. They are indeed a commercial juggernaut now, but they weren't just handed that success. When even your studio's biggest missteps are modestly entertaining at worst, you're doing something right, and in this case, it's all about loving the thing you're doing. Kevin Feige and the big-brained army of guys he's got working with and for him are all doing their best to take care of these characters and to respect each new idea they introduce.

The real reason everyone's imitating Marvel? Because Feige makes it look simple.

The real reason not everyone can have that success? Because it's not as simple as he makes it look.

"Avengers: Age Of Ultron" is in theaters everywhere now.

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