Last time we saw Reese Witherspoon dealing with the police on film it was the YouTube classic from 2013, when the indignant actress gave an officer the do-you-know-who-I-am? business. We know who she is. The question is, does she?
Because the last time we checked, she starred and excelled in last year's Wild, earning across-the-board praise for her understated, nuanced portrayal of a woman on a long walk of self-discovery. The role rejuvenated an inconsistent career.
But now she co-stars in Hot Pursuit, a zany piece of comic landfill in which she is Officer Cooper, a by-the-books but incompetent cop in charge of delivering a key female witness from San Antonio to Dallas for the trial of a Colombian drug lord. It's a chase film, it's a buddy film, it's a ridiculous, loud and often offensive romp. Witherspoon's character is cornball and annoyingly adrenalized – what was she thinking?
Perhaps she cottoned to the idea of working with the red-hot Sofia Vergara, television's Modern Family bombshell and budding Sophia Loren. In Hot Pursuit she's a stock, saucy, over-the-top Latino – all boobs, zingers and hot-tamale temperament. She mocks Witherspoon relentlessly, calling her a "Meester Cherlox Holmes," but more often knocking her purported boyishness with endless lesbian jokes. Because that's an insult in the minds of male scriptwriters David Feeney and John Quaintance.
Plot-wise, Vergara and Witherspoon's characters are on the lam, chased by on-the-take cops. One wishes director Anne Fletcher thought of having our duo ducking into a darkened movie theatre, perhaps to catch a double bill of real films Thelma & Louise or the 1988 Robert De Niro-Charles Groden vehicle Midnight Run.
The wackiness isn't completely without charm, and no doubt the co-stars had a hoot on set, but surely Witherspoon was attracted to something more than dressing up, for one scene, bewigged and Bieber-like. We did notice the New Orleans native broke out a thick Southern drawl for the role. And dang it if just this week the actress didn't launch her Southern-themed Draper James website, an online shop of clothes, jewellery and purses.
So, Witherspoon the hawker. A year ago she was back at the top of her game, and now she's headed south, in hot pursuit of something. Are we buying it?