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Paramount Studios presents
Hot Pursuit (1987)

"That's my woman off the starboard bow!"
- Dan (John Cusack)

Review By: Joel Cunningham   
Published: February 18, 2002

Stars: John Cusack
Other Stars: Robert Loggia, Wendy Gazelle, Jerry Stiller
Director: Steven Lisberger

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for (language, sexual themes, violence)
Run Time: 01h:32m:22s
Release Date: February 19, 2002
UPC: 097363208242
Genre: comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C+ DB-C+ D-

DVD Review

After High Fidelity, Bullets Over Broadway, and Being John Malkovich, I thought John Cusack could do no wrong as an actor. It turns out though, that he can. He just did most of it in the 1980s. In fact, he did an awful lot of it with Hot Pursuit, the kind of mindless teen drivel that nearly drove him away from the genre in general (Cameron Crowe wooed him back with the landmark Say Anything). Cusack plays Dan, yet another in a long line of insecure neurotics, a character type that has come to define the better part of Cusack's career, for better or worse. Dan, a college freshman, manages to spoil his plans to vacation with sweetheart Lori (Gazelle) and her family when he bombs his chemistry final and has to stay for a makeup exam. His professor, no doubt fondly remembering his days in college (the last time women found him attractive), does Dan a favor and passes him anyway, but he's already missed the plane to the Caribbean. Hot Pursuit tries to go over the top with Dan's fevered chase after his girlfriend. First, he blows most of his money on a cheap airline ticket. Then, once he arrives in the islands, he hires a group of wacky Rastafarians as tour guides, and they manage to strand him in the middle of the jungle. At this point, we're about 40 minutes into the movie, and I can't help but notice that I have yet to laugh. The problem isn't Cusack; he plays the part well enough. But the script, from director Steven Lisberger (Tron), is very dull. More attention is paid to creating wacky situations than to writing even remotely amusing dialogue.I wipe tears of mirth from my eyes as the story veers off in odd new directions once Dan boards a sailboat with a cranky, eccentric captain (Loggia), who is also chasing down Lori's family. Later, the tone shifts in surprisingly violent manner into thriller/adventure mode, with Dan the only one who can save everyone from a group of vicious hijackers. Violence in a comedy can certainly work (take Cusack's Grosse Pointe Blank), but here, the "action" doesn't fare any better than the comedy. Jerry Stiller joins Ben Stiller (in his smarmy debut) as half of a bumbling father/son con team, but don't worry, they aren't funny enough to bother sitting through the rest of this drivel. About the only thing nice I can say is that director of photography Frank Tidy has captured some gorgeous footage of the beautiful tropical setting. But when, in the middle of a scene, my attention is focused more on imagining how warm the water is, or how nice it would be to take a nap in the sand, the filmmakers are probably doing something wrong.

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: D


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: This is a pretty nice transfer, especially considering that films from the 1980s are notorious for their poor video quality, as the film stock of the era was apparently unreliable. Colors look fairly strong, though fleshtones veer towards the red end of the scale. Some minor aliasing is apparent, as is one or two instances of artifacting (visible on a canopy of trees in the jungle). The source material shows little in the way of blemishes, save for a bit of grain and one small scratch (though a noticeable one). The overall transfer appears to be a bit dark, and faces are often difficult to make out. Much of the film takes place at night, and while blacks are generally strong, shadow detail is only mediocre, and detail really suffers in these scenes.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: This DD 2.0 track is adequate for a comedy, but suffers from some problems that distract from the overall presentation. The front soundstage handles all of the action across a fairly narrow soundfield. There is some limited directionality, but nothing too flashy. Dialogue is clear throughout, but tends to sound a bit harsh (which is a problem that plagues the rest of the mix as well—it's all somewhat shrill). I wouldn't call this a bad mix, but it isn't quite as clean as it could be.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 14 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Another $24.99 Paramount disc with absolutely no extras. I've said several times that I don't need a lot of special features on every disc, but then why not price accordingly? If this was an MGM disc, it would be $15, and at that price, I could recommend it to fans. But when the same wad of cash will net you a two-disc special edition of the latest box-office hit, this dull comedy becomes an even harder sell.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

Hot Pursuit is a misguided comedy that fails on nearly every level. Ignore the wild tonal shifts and you still have an astoundingly unfunny screenplay masquerading as an "outlandish" adventure. I'll give it one thing, the beautiful photography in the Caribbean scenes made me fondly recall my trip to Puerta Vallarta in high school. Or course, thinking about high school then made me depressed, which made me dislike this movie all the more. Poor, poor Joel.


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