A version of this review appears in Friday’s Weekend Look section of The Oklahoman.
“Hit & Run”
In every way, the souped-up vanity project “Hit & Run” is a car crash of a film, a sputtering romantic-comedy road movie that has just enough interesting bits to keep you gawking at it, even when you know you should turn away out of sheer decency.
Along with his fiancée Kristen Bell (“Forgetting Sarah Marshall”), actor/writer/co-director Dax Shepard (TV’s “Parenthood”) gets many of his Hollywood pals to go on his cinematic ride, including Bradley Cooper, Beau Bridges and Broken Arrow native Kristin Chenoweth. It’s a mystery, then, why he depends on Tom Arnold, who hasn’t been funny in a movie since 1994’s “True Lies,” to provide much of the comic relief in his meandering romp.
Shepard stars as Charlie Bronson, a reformed ne’er-do-well lying low in the tiny hamlet of Milton, Calif., under the Witness Protection Program supervision of bumbling U.S. Marshall Randy Anderson (Arnold, naturally). Charlie has found love with the bright and fetching Annie (Bell, who you have credit for standing by her man), a sociology professor at Milton Valley College. When her pill-popping boss (Chenoweth) arranges for Annie to interview for a prestigious new position at the University of California, the Stanford graduate is excited, until she realizes the job would involve moving to Los Angeles — the one place Charlie can’t go since that’s where he got entangled in Witness Protection.
Charlie, though, insists Annie go to the interview and impulsively offers to drive her to L.A. in his restored 1967 Lincoln Continental. But Annie’s obsessive ex-boyfriend Gil (Michael Rosenbaum) tracks down Alexander Dmitri (Cooper), the head of the bank-robbing gang that Charlie testified against. Dmitri still managed to get away with the crime, and when he hears that Charlie is headed for L.A., the sociopathic delinquent sets out to intercept him and Annie.
Shepard revs up some sweet rides, many from his own car collection, but he and co-director David Palmer don’t have the capabilities to create compelling chase sequences. He and his real-life leading lady use their apparent chemistry to deliver some sharply crafted banter, but other jokes are so poorly penned they fall flat. The filmmaker also depends too much on raunchy sight gags (like a hotel roomful of naked geriatric swingers) and slapstick nonsense (pretty much every moment Arnold spends onscreen, for instance) to fuel the comedy.
Ultimately, Shepard tries to spin “Hit & Run” in too many directions and simply runs out of gas before getting much of anywhere.
Bonus material: A dozen deleted scenes and three brief featurettes.