Everybody needs a little help. Writer/director/actor Dax Shepard could have probably used another writer, a third director (David Palmer already co-directed) and a better group of actors for Hit and Run, a movie that is a cinematic traffic accident with multiple fatalities. Comedy, drama and action were all pronounced dead at the scene, and romance passed away on the way to the hospital. There’s nothing to see here, move along.
Hit and Run is about a former getaway driver in the witness protection program who now goes by Charles Bronson (Shepard). Get it? His girlfriend, Annie (Kristen Bell), believes he simply happened to see a crime he testified about and thus feels no remorse about planning a life with him, unconcerned about the potential of passing Shepard’s horrid hair genes on to future offspring. Despite knowing the risks, when Annie is offered a shot at a dream job in L.A., Charlie ditches his U.S. marshal, Randy (Tom Arnold), and takes off in a muscle car with his gal.
This doesn’t sit well with Annie’s ex, Gil (Michael Rosenbaum), who is able to really easily deduce Charlie’s former identity using Google, which has probably made real-life witness protection a difficult gig. Gil uses this information to let Alex (Bradley Cooper), the man Charlie testified against, know where to find the stool pigeon. Why Alex isn’t in jail after murdering someone is never really explained, but details all get hazy as Shepard becomes obsessed with car chases and what he thinks is clever comedy.
Case in point, there’s a discussion about the use of the word “fag” as a synonym for lame. It’s a good explanation and socially responsible at that. Unfortunately, it comes well after the introduction of a gay character who is practically a sexual predator that we meet talking about getting handjobs from strangers. Not so good, Dax. It’s hard to make the semantic discussion of language choices stick after you reveal such a stupid, stereotypical joke of a character.
Speaking of characters who were a total joke, Randy could have been quite funny. Representing the slapstick relief, the hapless lawman bumbles and falls, discharging his gun, wrecking his car and so forth. Honestly, the situations could have been hilarious, if Arnold wasn’t a human representation of the place where funny things go to die. Because they are a real-life couple, hands-down Shepard’s finest accomplishment to date, he and Bell have splendid little moments that mostly drown in a sea of uninteresting sequences.
And then there’s Cooper. Bradley, Bradley, Bradley … Roles like this are supposed to be fun, a chance to play odd and unkempt against your normal cool-guy-with-abs persona. So why did you play it exactly like yourself only with ridiculous hair? The only answer is that is literally all you have to offer. Please turn in your SAG card and enjoy your Hangover royalty checks.
Hit and Run is drab, boring and messy. Only Bell escapes unscathed, shielded beneath a protective layer of adorable, the sole survivor of a four-genre pile-up.
— This review first appeared in The Reader of Omaha, Neb.