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Hit & Run

August 26, 2012 by staff 

Hit & Run, “Hit & Run” is something like the ghost of “Smokey and the Bandit” – in low gear and on a low budget. At the center of things, when we manage to find a center, is a cross-country chase with an adorably cooing couple being pursued by several inept cops, a comic-psycho killer and her dim-witted ex-boyfriend. She, the pert Kristen Bell, is the catalyst, moving to Los Angeles to take her dream job of teaching at a college.

There’s just one problem. She’s being driven to L.A. by her man-child boyfriend, a former getaway driver who has been hiding in the witness protection program. Four years ago, he testified against his bank-robbing partners and went into hiding. If he returns to L.A., the gang is likely to find him. Only true love could make him take the risk, but “Hit & Run” is more interested in burning rubber than burning romances.

Dax Shepard plays the lead, a puppy-dog-looking innocent who goes by the name Charlie Bronson although his real name is Yul Perkins. (His Daddy thought Yul Brynner was the tops.) Shepard, known mostly for his work in TV’s “Parenthood,” has the same kind of timing and drawl as Owen Wilson but with the kind of minor-hunk appeal that can believably win Bell’s heart. (She is his fiancee in real life.) If this low-rent, fun trifle does any business at all it could lead to a feature career for him; he doubles, and triples, as the film’s co-director and writer.

Bell, no more than adequate decoration in most of her outings, seems to ad lib easily with him. Her character holds a doctoral degree in “nonviolent conflict resolution,” which means she’s constantly correcting him and telling him how to be politically correct. He doesn’t have a clue, but he can pour on the sweets with a line like “If you want, I’ll spend every moment with you for the rest of my life.”

Between the car crashes, there’s enough bonding to pass this off as a viable date flick.

More at the center of things, though, are the car chases. The man-child drives a souped-up 1967 Lincoln Continental with “700 ponies.” He is followed by his flame’s pesky ex-boyfriend (Michael Rosenbaum) in a Pontiac Solstice. Tom Arnold, as a U.S. marshal, also is in pursuit. He has what you might call the bumbling Jackie Gleason role (although with less screen time). After being married to Rosanne Barr, this must seem like a picnic for Arnold.

Kristen Chenoweth slums as a sex-crazed job counselor. Beau Bridges shows up for a bit as Yul’s estranged father.

The strangest, but most amusing, casting comes with Bradley Cooper as the dreadlocked villain who establishes his bad credentials by wiping out a shopper because he’s buying cheap dog food. Cooper, viewed by some as a pretty boy, can afford the eccentricity because, after all, he has “Hangover 3″ waiting in the wings.

The car chases in “Hit & Run” don’t live up to the standards set in “The French Connection,” but, impressively, they are not computer–generated. Real stunt drivers are obviously at work here, just when we worried that computers might put them in the unemployment lines.

Given the car focus, it’s fitting that “Hit & Run” has a drive-in kind of lowbrow appeal. It’s a welcome mood for a film that has no substance and makes no apologies.

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