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Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012 12:06 pm

Hit and Run goes nowhere slow

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There are many injustices in the world. While I wouldn’t dare compare the most dire ones to the complaint I am about to file, I can’t help but cast a glance to the heavens and ask “Why?” where Dax Shepard is concerned. If you’re not familiar with the actor, you’re not alone. Having starred in a series of forgettable movies, he’s found his niche in the marginally successful television series Parenthood. How he’s been able to parlay this into getting financing for his latest film, Hit and Run, which he wrote, co-directed and stars in, defies all logic. That he’s also living with the beautiful and talented Kristen Bell, who also stars in the movie, is an even bigger mystery and proves once more how cruel the universe can be.

The setting of this B-movie is Milton, Calif., and it’s far from being anyone’s idea of paradise. Charlie Bronson (Shepard) is in the witness protection program and, after having been deposited in this quiet burg, he’s acclimated quite well. That he’s fallen for Annie (Bell), a professor at the local college, is certainly a plus, but it’s a situation that will result in our easily distracted hero blowing his cover. Seems she has a job interview in Los Angeles that she must get to and, despite his better judgment, Charlie agrees to drive her there. This does not sit well with her ex, Gil (Michael Rosenbaum), who manages to contact Alex (Bradley Cooper), Charlie’s former partner who he ratted out, and tells him that his ex-buddy will be in his neck of the woods and should be on the lookout for him.

There’s a germ of a good idea here, but for a movie with a story as thin as this to succeed, the cast must be able to generate some kind of magic on-screen to get us to overlook how threadbare the script is. Needless to say, those involved fall short of the mark. While Shepard and Bell are certainly likable and obviously have great affection for one another, their on-screen chemistry is a hit-and-miss affair. Some scenes feel horribly forced as they strive to be a bit too cute with their banter, while others, when they actually attempt to inhabit their characters, work. It’s obvious that Shepard was too close to the material and his leading lady to be objective enough to insist on more than a few takes of any given scene and the film suffers for it. As for the supporting cast, they do what they can but when you’re relying on the manic comic stylings of Tom Arnold to generate laughs, you’ve hit rock bottom.

However, the movie does have its moments. Cooper shines in a wonderfully sadistic scene in which he educates a dog owner on the vagaries of the kibble he’s been feeding his pet, while he and Shepard share the film’s best sequence when they discuss an unfortunate incident that befell Alex in prison. But these moments and a couple of others do not a successful movie make. Fittingly, Hit and Run contains a scene that perfectly sums up what it’s all about. At an abandoned airport, four different vehicles drive round and round in circles in a mindless chase, lacking any sense of direction or a firm destination. Going nowhere fast, these few minutes sum up the problems with this film more accurately than I ever could.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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