05/08/15 8:00am
05/08/2015 8:00 AM |


Hot Pursuit
Directed by Anne Fletcher
Opens May 8

Anne Fletcher is partially responsible for some of my favorite moments in popular culture over the past couple of decades. She helped choreograph the musical sequence in the underrated Danny Boyle flop A Life Less Ordinary; she worked on the sterling Buffy the Vampire Slayer musical episode,  “Once More with Feeling”; she also contributed to the retro stylings of Catch Me If You Can and Down with Love and (presumably) the dancier moments of Walk Hard and 40-Year-Old Virgin. So much joy in a single career!

As a director, though: yeesh. It’s not necessarily that Hot Pursuit is any worse than 27 Dresses, The Proposal, or The Guilt Trip. It might even be a little better, with Reese Witherspoon getting a few laughs as a diminutive, uptight cop in over her head escorting a hostile witness (Sofia Vergara), the wife of an executed drug dealer, to possible safety (as they’re mistakenly tagged as fugitives, news reports keep underestimating Witherspoon’s height and overestimating Vergara’s age). It’s certainly easy to like, or at least easy to want to like: here is a female buddy comedy also directed by a woman, in that sense one-upping the last big female buddy comedy, 2013’s The Heat. That’s the only place it manages that feat; for a choreographer, Fletcher has real trouble rooting her movie in physical space.


12/05/14 2:00pm
12/05/2014 2:00 PM |


Early in Wild, during one of the movie’s many flashbacks from a very long Pacific Crest Trail hike, Cheryl (Reese Witherspoon) chooses herself the new last name of Strayed, and I’m thinking: great, a scene with a big life change that looks suspiciously like a memoirist choosing a pen name. But the movie breaks down memoir resistance, if you have it (and if you don’t, I’ve got plenty to go around), through its steady accumulation of moments: Cheryl’s often-lonely struggles on the trail—she’s a novice hiker outfitted with a pack so large she can barely stand up—along with the additional struggles that brought her into the wild, namely the death of her beloved mother (Laura Dern, handy casting shortcut for “beloved”).