Directed by: David Palmer and Dax Shepard
Premise: A couple in witness protection travel to Los Angeles and are pursed by criminals.
What Works: Hit and Run features actors Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard in the lead roles and the two actors are very good as a couple. They are watchable, their relationship is believable, and the viewer will likely want to see them end up together at the end.
What Doesn’t: Hit and Run is a stupid and sloppily made film. It is one of those pictures in which nothing goes right because the filmmakers never settled on what kind of film they were trying to make. The picture is a messy combination of a chase film, a screwball comedy, and a caper but all the elements of the film work against each other instead of with one another, resulting in a picture that shifts awkwardly in tone and is narratively directionless. A chase film is essentially a race and its success depends upon the protagonist having a finish line that he or she strives to reach and on the filmmakers creating desire on the part of the audience to see the lead character win that race. The movie has a final destination in the form of a job interview that Kristen Bell’s character needs to get to but there is never a compelling sense of urgency over whether she gets there or not. The dramatic urgency is often hurt by the screwball comedy elements of the film. Instead of punching up the picture’s energy, the humor often stops the movie dead. The humor is largely presented through an overstuffed supporting cast of goofy characters including Tom Arnold as a federal marshal, Michael Rosenbaum as an obsessive ex-boyfriend, and Kristin Chenoweth as an immature college dean. These characters aren’t funny but it isn’t so much the fault of the actors as it is the fault of the writing. Many of the characters in the film are obnoxious and everyone, including the leads, are so stupid that it becomes difficult and even impossible to feel something for them. There is a difference between characters making difficult choices based on circumstance and characters who simply making stupid decisions that audiences second guess while the story unfolds; good stories do the former but Hit and Run does the latter. The entire conceit of the film, that this couple leaves protective custody and thereby risk murder in order to get to a job interview, is nonsense and throughout the road trip other characters make similarly bad decisions. The stupidity of the film negatively impacts the caper elements of the story. Crime films have to be smart because these stories are about craftiness and manipulation but the filmmakers of Hit and Run understand neither. When the couple returns to Los Angeles they find themselves pursued by a criminal apparently out for revenge, played by Bradley Cooper in very unfortunate bit of miscasting. But as the film goes on the motives of the villain change for no apparent reason and become about recovering some unspecified cache of money. The entire driving force behind the movie ends up getting muddled and the backstory and motivation of the villains make no sense. Even the car chases are largely boring and mistakenly attempt to mix the thrills of cinematic auto racing with the laughs of physical comedy but the film succeeds at neither.
Bottom Line: Hit and Run is a terrible film. It seems as though the filmmakers had some grand concept of making an homage to pictures like Vanishing Point orTrue Romance but this film belongs nowhere near those pictures.
Episode: #403 (September 2, 2012)