Monday, August 27, 2012


 Dax Shepard and his fiancée Kristen Bell co-star in the witless romantic comedy “Hit and Run”(* OUT OF ****) that Shepard wrote and co-directed with his pal George Palmer. Palmer and Shepard helmed the video short “Reunited” (2010) as well as the spoof documentary “Brother’s Justice.” The style of comedy that they espouse mingles dry humor with slapstick. The garrulous characters never cease making asses of themselves. This half-baked buffoonery about a goofy getaway driver in the Witness Relocation Program who shacks up with a brainiac, drop-dead gorgeous, community college professor delivers more run than hit. Nothing about this low-brow, tread-burning, crime melodrama will make you either smile or flinch. The grossest scene resembles something that Sasha Baron Cohen might have removed from one of his offensive comedies. Our hero and heroine are on the run when they check into a motel. They find a sex orgy in their room with participants who are old, fat, and ugly. This tasteless scene qualifies as so gratuitous that the MPAA probably had no choice but to slap “Hit and Run” with an R-rating for nudity. Shepard and Palmer aren’t content to show this unsightly scene once but twice for maximum impact. Meantime, you’ll lose count of the number of times that the F-word is uttered. The violence remains relatively mild by today’s standards. A felon takes a slug in the back with a splash of blood for realism. A man is shown mercilessly slugging another. An assailant smashes our hero’s nose with a golf club. Nevertheless, despite their lame-brained humor and lackluster car chases, Shepard and Palmer have assembled a first-class, straight-faced cast that contributes a modicum of hilarity to the antics. Bradley Cooper, Tom Arnold, Kristin Chenoweth, Michael Rosenbaum, and David Koechner run circles around our leads. “Hit and Run” amounts to one long, drawn-out, vehicular chase with no memorable stunts. The biggest stunt involves a dune buggy hurtling “Dukes of Hazard” style over several parked cars. Nothing about the driving will turn your knuckles white and make you gasp, but the automobiles look ultra-cool.

“Hit and Run” starts out in a backwater California town named Milton with a community college. Basically, our heroine Annie Bean (Kristen Bell of “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”) learns that she is about to be fired from her job as a community college professor. Happily, Annie’s potty-mouthed boss, Debby (Kristin Chenoweth of “You, Again”), alerts her about an opening at UCLA where she can land her dream job as the head of a conflict-resolution department. The major drawback for our ambitious heroine is when her tattooed boyfriend, Charlie Bronson (Dax Sheppard of “When In Rome”), divulges his participation in Witness Relocation.  Charlie is pretty much condemned to live an eternity in the sleepy little town of Milton because his former partners-in-crime want to track him down and terminate him with extreme prejudice. Eventually, Charlie changes his mind about Witness Protection and pulls the tarp off his jacked-up 1967 Lincoln Continental with suicide doors to chauffeur Annie in style to Los Angeles. Annie’s green-eyed, ex-boyfriend, Gil (Michael Rosenbaum of TV’s “Smallville”), gets wind of Charlie’s real identity and sends a message via Facebook to Charlie’s number one nemesis. As it turns out, and Annie discovers later, Charlie is really Yul Perrkins. Charlie’s father Clint Perrkins (Beau Bridges of “Max Payne”) named him after legendary actor Yul Brynner of “The Magnificent Seven.” Charlie hated the name Yul so much that he changed it to Charles Bronson.  Mind you, Yul wasn’t thinking about  movie superstar Charles Bronson of “Death Wish” fame, but the notorious British inmate Charles Bronson who is known as the most violent man in British prisons. Naturally, Annie is appalled by these revelations. What she really isn’t prepared for the gun-toting trio that come calling on them as they are about to leave for L.A.  Alex Dmitri (Bradley Cooper of “The A-Team” in dreadlocks) hates Charlie because Charlie’s testimony put him behind bars long enough for a Phillipino prisoner to rape him. Now, Alex yearns to kill Charlie as much his accomplices Neve Tatum (Joy Bryant of “Spider-Man 2”) and Allen (Ryan Hansen of “Friday the 13th”). Predictably, our hero has a savior, bungling U.S. Marshal Randy Anderson (Tom Arnold of “Exit Wounds”) who doesn’t know where the brakes are on his car. The people who make FX's "Justified" have used this gag before. Worse, he has to dodge the bullets that his own gun bangs out at him as it bounces around in his car.  The scene with the bowling ball in his smashed up car will make you grin.

“Hit and Run” blends elements of both “True Romance” and “Smokey and the Bandit.” The romance between Annie and Charlie and their flight from the desperate villains recalls the predicament that Clarence and Alabama face in “True Romance.”  Bradley Cooper’s arch villain resembles the Gary Oldman bad guy that Christian Slater tangled with in “True Romance” when he went to fetch Alabama's luggage. Shepard has made it well known in the media how much he loved the Burt Reynolds' comedy "Smokey and the Bandit," and the plot follows it, especially the use of a series of careening car chases. U.S. Marshal Randy is the equivalent of "Smokey." Unfortunately, this sloppy, low-octane, pursuit potboiler conjures up little tension and delivers few thrills.  Meantime, Shepard struggles to capture the spontaneous, off-the-cuff Tarantino dialogue about controversial subject matter. Instead, they wind up sounding nothing less than loquacious. Shepard and Palmer look like they not only shot this 96-minute feature on the shoe-string but also improvised many scenes. They stage their dialogue scenes with the same lack of finesse that they do their automotive maneuvers. You should sit and shun “Hit and Run.”

No comments: