On the Run While On the Road

Review of “Hit and Run”

BY VINCENT ABBATECOLA

In the opening of “Hit and Run,” the new road movie from Dax Shepard and David Palmer, we see a scene that we wouldn’t normally expect an action comedy to begin with: a sunlit, romantic bedroom setting with Charlie (Shepard) and his girlfriend, Annie (Kristen Bell). He’s calming her down from stress, uttering sweetly clichéd lines like, “If you want, I’ll spend every moment with you for the rest of my life.”

They live on a quiet, ranch-like property, and are perfectly content being together. If you walked in without knowing anything about the film, you would think it’s another movie based on a Nicholas Sparks novel.

With this, directors Shepard and Palmer set a romantic tone that will, unexpectedly, be focused on for the first two-thirds of the movie. While not necessarily a bad thing, it does, however, overshadow the comedic danger that sets out to catch them.

Annie and Charlie have been together for a few years. She is a college professor who teaches Non-Violent Conflict Resolution, and is offered a chance at a new position at a college in Los Angeles. Charlie is in the Witness Protection Program for testifying against his friends after being the getaway driver for their bank-robbing. On the couple’s way to L.A. in Charlie’s Lincoln hot rod, certain events occur that will eventually lead to their encounter with Charlie’s ex thug friends.

Kristen Bell is one of those actresses who, despite being in several bad movies, can bring out her acting ability when she has decent material to work with. With her work on her hit TV show “Veronica Mars” and in films, like “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and this summer’s “Safety Not Guaranteed,” Bell can bring much likability and girl-next-door charm to her best roles. When she has a good script, she shows that she’s not just another young actress. Bell is believable as a college professor because she doesn’t act like a generic blonde beauty. Her character exhibits sensitivity and insight to current social issues, and maintains her views on the importance of non-violence.

Dax Shepard is surprisingly restrained from doing a scumbag type of character as he does in some of his other comedies. He’s a supportive and caring boyfriend who is willing to risk everything for Annie’s success. The opening scene shows that we will be seeing a different kind of character in the film apart from what Shepard usually plays.

There is a variety of witty supporting players on this insane and dangerous road trip. Bradley Cooper takes a villainous turn as Alex Dimitri, the dreadlock-styled leader of the gang of criminals. Kristin Chenoweth makes a funny appearance as Annie’s Xanax-popping colleague, and Tom Arnold appears as Charlie’s gun-toting and incompetent Witness Protection officer.

The screenplay by Shepard tries to juggle the romance of Annie and Charlie’s relationship and the action sequences of them being chased by Alex Dimitri’s group. But, the two parties don’t meet until an hour into the movie. While we’re waiting for them to finally collide, the movie focuses on the two lovers trying to keep a stable relationship during these highly unusual circumstances.

So, the film tends to drag in spots leading up to their encounter with the criminals. The jokes in between aren’t particularly funny, and either go on longer than they should or are just for shock value.

While the chemistry between Bell and Shepard make for a nice hood ornament for this vehicle, “Hit and Run” is like a car that you would just want to rent.

Final grade: C+