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Warmed Over and Heartwarming 

Hot Pursuit and Seymour

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HOT PURSUIT. Road comedies are an easy go-to for Hollywood during the lull between award and blockbuster season. They follow a basic formula and they're relatively cheap to make. Other than coming up with a few original slapstick gags, the only thing they really require is good casting. Hot Pursuit had neither of these things and it was generally painful to watch.

Cooper (Reese Witherspoon) is an intense and anxious San Antonio police officer with something to prove. Born into a cop family, she is constantly trying to fill her father's shoes. After an arrest-gone-wrong sends her to a desk job, she is given one last chance to redeem herself. All she has to do is guard a mob lackey and his wife while they wait to testify against a cartel. The lackey and Cooper's partner are taken out by a surprise attack, leaving Cooper and the lackey's wife, Daniella (Sofia Vergara) to outrun the hitmen and make their way to safety.

The pair's clashing personalities, high-speed shoot-outs and constant mishaps fail to keep the movie afloat, and it's hard to ignore that the story's central problem and therefore the entire plot of the film is completely avoidable. The ensuing antics quickly annoy, and most of the gags are recycled and predictable. The occasional cameo from an genuinely funny comedian (say, Jim Gaffigan) or actor helps to break up this monotony, but it's not enough to redeem the film. Witherspoon's (Legally Blonde) performance is over-eager and under-funny, while Vergara (Modern Family) isn't given a whole lot to work with other than Hispanic stereotypes and jokes about her sexuality.

Director Anne Fletcher (The Proposal, 27 Dresses) has a history of making female-driven comedies, which have generally been pretty decent. Hot Pursuit, though, may have been doomed from the get-go. Writers David Feeney (New Girl) and John Quaintance (Undateable) both have resumes riddled with hackneyed and cancelled sitcoms. It's hard to say if their script would have been any better in the hands of more talented lead actresses, but it certainly wouldn't have been any worse. PG13. 87m.

SEYMOUR: AN INTRODUCTION. Ethan Hawke has been trying to win my affections since Reality Bites (1994). He's bland in most of his roles, like the director meant to use him as a place-filler until a real actor could come along and fill the role. I try to keep an open mind when seeing a Hawke movie, but he has yet to win me over, at least in front of the camera. His recent excursion into the field of documentary directing may have actually found him a way into my heart, though. Seymour: An Introduction is sweet and endearing.

Borrowing its title from a J.D. Salinger novella, Seymour is an intimate look at the life of Seymour Bernstein, a brilliant concert pianist who abandoned a promising career in order to return to teaching. Bernstein is 81 and still teaches piano from his tiny New York apartment. Most of the film is comprised of a series of interviews with Bernstein and his current and former students, sprinkled with footage of Bernstein's past performances. It's a short, sweet film with a heartwarming message about art, life and doing what you love.

It's easy to see why Hawke is so enamored with Bernstein. The octogenarian has a meditative outlook on life that is both soothing and inspiring. That being said, it's still an odd choice for Hawke's debut as a documentary director. It's a very personal topic for Hawke — that much is clear. During his few appearances onscreen with Bernstein, you can see the admiration oozing from Hawke's eyes. It's a tad bit discomforting at first, like you've walked in on someone else's private conversation. All told, the film is a great first effort on Hawke's part and it hopefully won't be his last documentary.

Seymour is worth watching for anyone who needs some quiet inspiration in his or her life. It won't bowl you over or make you a better person, but it may put some oomph in your step. PG. 84m.

Dev Richards


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Jennifer Fumiko Cahill

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Henry Ellis

Henry Ellis

Henry Ellis has been a freelancer with NCJ since 2011; he has never made a deadline.

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