Romantic drive to a dead end
By Stephanie Merry
Friday, August 24, 2012
“Hit and Run” might be a middling romantic comedy, if it weren’t for those pesky chase scenes. Or it could be a decent action movie, if only the engine-revving weren’t derailed by the intermittent saccharine schmoopiness. Instead, it feels like writer, co-director and star Dax Shepard has unleashed some kind of freakish Franken-film on movie-goers.
Mixing up incongruous elements can work, of course; there’s a reason peanut butter and jelly are a lunchtime staple. But “Hit and Run” feels so lazily thrown together. It’s as if Shepard stumbled over to the fridge to concoct a breakfast smoothie and just grabbed whatever was closest to the door. Peaches, pickles, milk and mayonnaise? Toss it all in the blender.
Shepard plays Charlie Bronson, a bedraggled, drawling man under witness protection, who lives in the middle of nowhere with his professor girlfriend Annie (real-life fiance Kristen Bell). While Annie has no ambitions for a better job, as that would mean leaving her marooned boyfriend, her boss insists she interview for a dream position in Los Angeles. The only kink is that L.A. is the hometown of the criminals who have it out for Charlie.
But devoted boyfriend that he is, Charlie breaks out his souped-up Lincoln Continental and chauffeurs his girlfriend to her interview and toward a potentially life-threatening scenario. Hot on their heels are Randy (Tom Arnold) -- the trigger-happy numskull charged with protecting Charlie -- and Annie’s vengeful ex, Gil, played by Michael Rosenbaum. Also entering the mix are the bank robbers Charlie has been evading for four years, including Alex (a dreadlocked Bradley Cooper) and Neve (Joy Bryant).
In terms of humor, the punchlines often feel either uninspired or downright distasteful. On the less offensive end of the spectrum, the gags include an orgy with what appears to be octogenarians and a sweaty, bumbling, coffee-stained Tom Arnold. Some editor should have stepped in, however, when jokes about prison rape popped up in the script. And a sight gag in which a couple of small children are endangered of being hit by either a runaway minivan or haphazardly shot bullets seems like a non-starter.
The chemistry between Shepard and Bell should have been a snap, given that the pair are actually together. But their scenes were some of the most problematic. With the exception of a rather sweet introduction in which Charlie gives Annie an early morning pep talk in preparation for a big day, the couple’s repartee consists of putting each other down (Charlie often jokes that Annie is fat and ugly), mindless and sentimental compliments or twitch-inducing whining about how one betrayed the other. There’s no wit and no passion and certainly no indication that the relationship can survive outside the vacuum of Nowhere, U.S.A.
There are a few inspired bits, including one slow-motion sequence in which Charlie revs his engine, flaunting his car’s full power to a slowed-down version of the song “Pure Imagination” from 1971’s “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.” Meanwhile, Jess Rowland, who practically steals the show as a gay police officer schooling his partner on the finer points of a Grindr-like app, could teach the rest of the players a thing or two about comic timing.
Then again, there’s only so much an actor can do with lifeless dialogue. It’s hard to blame the cast for looking less than committed; they all realized too late that Shepard created a monster.
Contains nudity, violence and crude language.