Watching HIT AND RUN, it is safe to deduce that writer, co-star, and co-director Dax Shepard is crazy mad for cars. Not just any cars, but the soup-up ones with massive horsepower, killer pickup, and torque capabilities beyond the ken of the standard-issue assembly line variety. Alas, his adoration for automobiles translates into a film that is best described as will no doubt be the catch phrase for reviews is it, hit and miss. And thats a shame because while the execution is shaky, the intentions are just fine, even, to a point, noble.
There is even a lesson to be learned, the which is that mixing THE CANNONBALL RUN with SIDDHARTHA is harder than it sounds. And it sounds very, very hard. The story involves Charlie (Shepard) trying to get his significant other, Annie (Kristen Bell, Shepards real-life significant other) to Los Angeles. Its not the 500 miles that the trip entails that is the problem. Its that Charlie is in the witness protection program, and Los Angeles is where the people who would like to see him dead are living. But for Charlie its true love and Annies chance of a lifetime to head up a department at UCLA devoted to non-violent conflict resolution. What Charlies hoping, aside from giving the woman he loves the job of her dreams, is that the bad guys will somehow have mellowed out after four years. Of course they havent. Of course Annies prosperous ex-boyfriend (Michael Rosenbaum) hasnt given up hope of winning her back. Of course, the U.S. marshal (Tom Arnold) assigned to Charlie isnt going to let him leave Milford without filling out the proper paperwork. The real snag, though, is what happens to Charlie and Annies relationship as they take their first road trip together. Traveling together is, after all, when people really get to know one another.
There is much burning of rubber, rooster-tailing of dirt, and flying through the air in late-model vans not designed for such. All of it is shot in nice detail, but is not particularly exciting, or interesting. As for the characters, there is little to fault, they are an interesting mix of oddball and/or eccentric types, starting with Bradley Cooper as Charlies nemesis. Hes a dreadlocked dude quick to pull a gun, but also passionate about animal rights, dressing properly, and his yellow-tinted aviator glasses. The problem is that Cooper, a guy who can be very funny in a low-key, ironic way, here cant make up his mind whether he is trying for comedy or gritty drama. The same can be said of both Shepard and Bell as Charlie and Annie, who glow with genuine tenderness and find a nicely palpable tension as their characters use zen-like techniques to negotiate, literally, the snags in their relationship as Charlies past comes back to haunt him. Either choice would have worked, but both together are simply confusing. Arnold, on the other had, has opted for broad slapstick at all times, and is successful only part of that time.
It would be a lie to say that there arent parts of HIT AND RUN that are very funny. Any flick that takes full advantage of Kristen Chenowiths hard-boiled side in such a delightful way deserves a nod of respect. A nod, however, that cant quite work its way up to a recommendation.