By Eric Henderson

Well, Huffington Post just called it “this summer’s worst film,” and I really can’t work up much of an argument against that claim.

Hit & Run is seemingly reluctant car chase trash that, thanks to the on- and off-screen chemistry (presumably more of the later, because if not, tsk-tsk-tsk) between stars Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard, consistently undercuts its own worst impulses with discursive lovers’ quarrels, forced quirky caricatures, and limp-hip dialogue that would’ve made Guy Ritchie ask for a few rewrites.

And when I say “worst impulses,” I’m talking about the same scuzzy things that could’ve made this movie a genuine B-movie pleasure — diesel-fueled chase sequences, namely. Instead, the movie tries to aim for a guttery form of screwball anarchy.

Shepard stars as Charlie Bronson (yep), a drawly dude with no especially defining character traits other than the fact that he’s currently in the Witness Protection Program. Bell plays his girlfriend Annie, a professor who received her highly-selective mega-doctorate in conflict management, but toils away at a correspondence college in the middle of nowhere California because, it appears, she doesn’t want to outclass her partner too flagrantly. So, conflict avoidant.

When Annie gets a job offer that requires her to relocate to Los Angeles, Charlie makes it clear that L.A. is the stomping grounds of the criminals he testified against. And he was closer to the case than he ever let on.

Nevertheless, he agrees to drive her to her job interview in order to avoid having her make a bad choice and resent him for the rest of their lives together. No sooner are they hitting the road in his 700-horsepower muscle car than they are pursued by Annie’s possessive ex-boyfriend, Charlie’s needy U.S. Marshal guard, and the motley gang of criminals Charlie ratted out.

As a real-life couple, Bell and Shepard are appealingly sweet and sour. She’s chipper without being nattering, and he’s effortlessly effortless. (Shepard’s Twitter account accurately self-assesses: “Comedic actor who is light on both comedy and acting.”) She seems to rouse him out of his perpetual stupor and he prevents her from inadvertently becoming Tracy Flick.

But a movie like Hit & Run doesn’t really need chemistry, it needs octane. And every time it appears pavement is about to get torn and rubber liquefied, Bell and Shepard jerk the parking brake back to discuss the morality of Charlie using the other f-word and whether it denigrates gay people, or to dwell on the difference between lying about one’s past and simply not telling the whole truth.

Bradley Cooper, Kristin Chenoweth and Tom Arnold clown like crazy in an attempt to breathe some madcap life into the proceedings, but they can’t prevent the entire derby from stalling out.


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