Witherspoon and Vergara Are the New Bullock and McCarthy

The trailer for Reese Witherspoon’s upcoming movie Hot Pursuit has hit the Internet, and it looks like after making more serious, critically acclaimed movies for several years the actress seems to be returning to her comedy roots. The film co-stars Latina comedienne Sofia Vergara, who is most famous for her longtime role on ABC’s Modern Family. The action-comedy looks like it’s going for a The Heat vibe with Witherspoon playing a pint-sized police officer attempting to protect the wife of a drug cartel head honcho as the pair travel through Texas pursued by members of the cartel, crooked cops, and the vigilantes one is wont to find in Texas.

Witherspoon starred in two of last year’s most critically acclaimed movies, the adaptation of Cheryl Strayed’s popular memoir Wild and the new Paul Thomas Anderson movie Inherent Vice. Her performance in both films received praise, and she’s up for an Oscar for Wild, a film that saw her having to reenact drug use and go on an intense hike to portray Strayed’s real journey of hiking the Pacific Crest trail. Witherspoon has won one Oscar, for her performance as June Carter Cash in the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line.

With all those recent serious films, it can almost make one forget that Witherspoon is actually very funny and got her start in comedy. Great early comedy roles from her include playing a ditzy but earnest law student in Legally Blonde, the obsessive type-A political climber in Election, and even the charming southern girl who tries to deny her roots in the rom-com Sweet Home Alabama.

Judging by the trailer, it looks like Witherspoon’s comedic timing and energy has gotten even better in the intervening years and she has a worthy sparring partner in Vergara. Witherspoon is playing the type of comedic character she does best, an obsessive, type-A, neurotic. Her police officer must protect Vergara in time for Vergara to testify against her cartel-leading husband. The only problem is the cartel leader has killed every other witness the police force has ever had before they’ve gotten them to the witness stand. Vergara is also in her element here as a saucy, stubborn Latina who chastises Witherspoon’s character for wearing unflattering underwear and makes fun of her for being short.

The movie is definitely influenced by the female buddy comedy The Heat starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy. That movie from Bridesmaids director Paul Feig saw Bullock playing a perfectionist FBI agent who comes to Boston to bust a drug ring and McCarthy plays the tough-as-nails local cop Bullock must collaborate and clash with in order to get the job done. That movie got decent reviews, with a 65% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but even better made bank at the box office with over $229 million in earnings worldwide on a production budget of $43 million according to Box Office Mojo.

While Hot Pursuit might sound similar to The Heat, it’s worth pointing out that there are innumerable buddy cop movies with male leads. The formula seems to work just as successfully with female characters, which is something Hollywood certainly needs more of. Hot Pursuit is set to hit theaters on May 8, just in time for Mother’s Day.

Follow Jacqueline on Twitter @Jacqui_WSCS

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