In ancient times, before the phrases “Global Warming” and “Peak Oil” ruined our fun, Hollywood used to make car chase comedies, automotive epics that were more about burnt rubber than good acting. An aspiring director like Ron Howard could launch his career with “Eat My Dust” or “Grand Theft Auto.” Burt Reynolds could slip on a hat and slip behind the wheel and fans would follow “Hooper” and “Smokey and the Bandit” anywhere.
That’s the tradition “Hit and Run” fits into. Hollywood gearhead Dax Shepard, of “Baby Mama” and TV’s “Parenthood” rounded up his fiance and “When in Rome” co-star, Kristen Bell, and a bunch of their friends, piled into a collection of cars — classic and new — and tore up some California backroads in a movie about, well, tearing up the backrooads between remote, rural California and Los Angeles.
Shepard is “Charlie Bronson.” No, that’s not his real name. He’s in the witness protection program, far from LA. One thing that is real is Charlie’s love for community college “conflict resolution” teacher Annie (Bell).
“If you want, I’ll spend every moment with you for the rest of my life,” he coos to her, in bed.
That is tested when Annie has a shot at a job with a college in Los Angeles. “Charlie” can let her go and stay out of the city where his life is in danger. Or he can risk it all for love.
His accident-prone witness protection marshal (Tom Arnold) is against. Annie’s ex (Michael Rosenbaum) is hel bent on stopping them.
And waiting in LA is the psychopathic killer (Bradley Cooper, in hilarious dreadlocks) just waiting for this guy not-really-named-Charles-Bronson to make an appearance so they can settle old scores.
Charlie figures Annie’s worth the risk. He pulls his entirely-too-distinctive hot rod Lincoln out of mothballs and dashes south, pursued by the hapless Randy (Arnold) in his mini-van and the lunatic Gil (Rosenbaum) in his Pontiac Solstice.
It’s a movie of random, comical cameos (Kristen Chenoweth, David Koechner) and raunchy riffs on senior citizen “swinger” clubs, prison sex and curing oneself of casual homophobic slurs. Annie tries to anger-manage everybody, to no avail. Charlie tries to outrun everybody, with no better result.
It doesn’t really hold together and stand up to much scrutiny. But the car stuff is fun, some bits are laugh-out-loud funny and Bell and Shepard make an adorable couple. When you see that yes, that’s really them in the cars Shepard is doing his own stunts in, that adds to the movie’s retro sense of automotive anarchy.
Film production insurance? What’s that?
“Hit and Run” only aims to be a B-movie, and it’s pace is sluggish in between the chases. You can criticize it for a lack of ambition, lack of budget to do a really EPIC chase and for wanting to call-something the F-for-gay word, and apologize for it, too. But you have to hand the wheel off to Shepard & Co. They’re onto something the cinema has missed since the days when the gears were grinding in your local grindhouse.
MPAA Rating:R for pervasive language including sexual references, graphic nudity, some violence and drug content
Cast: Dax Shepard, Kristen Bell, Bradley Cooper, Tom Arnold, Kristin Chenoweth
Credits: Directed by David Plamer and Dax Shepard, written by Dax Shepard. An Open Road release.
Running time: 1:40