"Hot Pursuit" presents an interesting conundrum: It's a mediocre movie whose existence should be celebrated.

Put simply: There is an astounding deficiency of big-studio movies directed by and starring women. There's an even bigger deficiency of such films that co-opt the most familiar formulas.

If Reese Witherspoon, Sofia Vergara and director Anne Fletcher ("The Proposal") want to make a dumb buddy cop-criminal picture, what Roger Ebert once deemed a "wunza" movie, then more power to them. But that doesn't mean it's actually worth watching.

Indeed, this is your everyday, strained cliche-fest, in which uptight officer Cooper (Witherspoon) is tasked with bringing in Daniella Riva (Vergara), the wife of a drug lord.

The film wheezes along a tired road paved with broad slapstick, featuring easily digestible humor revolving around the clash between Cooper's rigid adherence to the rules and Riva's Sofia Vergara-ness, for lack of a better description.

There's lots of bickering, a car crash that results in a plume of cocaine smoke, riffs about shoes and Cooper's wardrobe and at least one dopey lesbian joke.

There's none of the comic energy required to disguise the overwhelmingly rote nature of it all.

A pedestrian sitcom masquerading as a feature, the film is redeemed to a certain extent by the fact that Witherspoon is such an appealing presence that she enlivens even the most inane material.

Frankly, I saw the movie a few days ago and I've already forgotten a chunk of it. I'm happy it's there to be forgotten, though.