Hot Pursuit

“Hot Pursuit” is beneath Reese Witherspoon, just about right for Sofia Vergara, and bad for us all. It’s one of those comedies about supposedly ordinary people of at least average intelligence who nonetheless spend the entire movie being frantic, bumbling morons who can’t do anything without breaking something. One of them can’t talk on the phone and drive at the same time, so she hands the phone to the other one, who drops it out the window. That sort of thing.

Witherspoon plays Rose Cooper, an overeager, straitlaced San Antonio cop who’s a stickler for rules, speaks in police lingo (“I am announcing my entrance into your private domicile”), and isn’t good at jokes. She’s sent with a federal marshal to escort a drug lord (Vincent Laresca) and his preposterously Colombian wife (Vergara) to Dallas to testify against the cartel, but the cartel strikes first, and now Cooper and Mrs. Riva (as she consistently calls her) are on the run! What’s more, there are dirty cops involved, and they’ve made it look like Cooper and Riva are the bad guys, so they are fugitives, must hide in bushes, wear disguises, whisper-shout at each other, etc. Riva, of course, is wearing high heels and dragging a suitcase most of the time, for comedy.

It may sound like the female version of “Midnight Run,” but don’t forget, “Midnight Run” was funny. Written by sitcom scribes David Feeney (“New Girl”) and John Quaintance (“Whitney”), and directed by rom-com veteran Anne Fletcher (“27 Dresses,” “The Proposal”), “Hot Pursuit” is shrill, broad, and nonsensical, full of dumb details like Cooper, a lifelong Texas girl, not recognizing a longhorn when she sees one. There’s a recurring motif of the women turning male sexism back against them as a weapon: Riva displays her cleavage to focus a cashier’s attention; they pretend to be lesbians to distract a redneck; they talk graphically about their periods so their captors will let them go to the bathroom (and escape). The movie’s on to something here, but like everything else, doesn’t develop it or follow through with it.

Vergara is playing up her “Modern Family” persona in a way that makes me remember why I stopped watching “Modern Family” a few years ago, though it might have a different effect on current fans. Her loud, open-mouth crying, Lucy Ricardo-style, is not one of her finer moments. Witherspoon is wholly, admirably committed to the garbage screenplay, most notably in a sequence where she’s dosed with cocaine (yes, it’s the kind of movie where someone accidentally gets high) and earns laughs by cranking her already intense personality up to 11. Otherwise, this sloppy, half-baked idiocy is basically a disaster.

D+ (1 hr., 27 min.; PG-13, a little profanity, mild violence, a little innuendo.)