August 30, 2012

'Hit and Run' hard to dislike


---- — Dax Shepard has a few things to learn about movie making, but he sure knows how to have a good time.

The actor (“Zathura” and TV’s “Parenthood”) also wrote and co-directed “Hit and Run,” a lightweight road movie that maintains an awkward but somehow pleasing balance of action, romance and humor.

The film ambles off in a number of random tangents, but it’s got some big laughs and is rescued by the tremendous chemistry between Shepard and his co-star, real-life fiancee, Kristen Bell.

Shepard stars as Charlie Bronson, a laid-back member of the Witness Protection Program, living his life in a nowhere California town and hopelessly in love with Bell’s Annie, a professor at the local community college.

When Annie gets a once-in-a-lifetime job opportunity in Los Angeles, however, Charlie has the choice of losing her or going to the one place he’s forbidden to go. Charlie fires up the beloved car of his past life — a souped up '67 Lincoln Continental — and the chase is on.

In pursuit is the most bumbling U.S. marshal imaginable (Tom Arnold); Annie’s rich but ineffectual ex-boyfriend (it took 70 minutes before I recognized him as Michael Rosenbaum — “Smallville’s” Lex Luthor, but with hair!); and the bad guys who Charlie testified against, led by Bradley Cooper’s psychopathic ringleader Alex Dmitri.

Arnold overacts as the ludicrously ineffective marshal, but still earns plenty of laughs. The role could have been a complete riot in more capable hands.

Cooper (“The Hangover”) is clearly having a blast as the chief bad guy, though there’s a limit to the amount of menace he can portray with a head full of outrageous dreadlocks.

Kristin Chenoweth, Beau Bridges and Sean Hayes all have small but funny roles in the film.

Shepard does most of his own stunt work in the fast-driving car scenes, but his best trick was roping in Bell to star alongside him. The two have a tremendous chemistry, showing off some realistic back-and-forth and sneaking in a feel-good romance among the cars and raunchy humor.

“Hit and Run” doesn’t set its sights very high. The budget is low and the action is low octane — this is not “The Fast and the Furious 7.” It’s a film, though, that’s hard to dislike.

Rental recommendation: Where have all the good car-chase romantic comedies gone? Burt Reynolds did it right in “Smokey and the Bandit.” Grade: B+

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Hit and Run

Grade: B

Starring: Kristen Bell, Dax Shepard, Bradley Cooper

Rated: R (for pervasive language including sexual references, graphic nudity, some violence and drug content)

Running time: 100 minutes