Hit & Run isn’t going to win any awards. In fact, it’s not a particularly good movie. But it is often enjoyable, and much of the reason for that is Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard, who do an impeccable job of translating their real-life relationship onto film. There are a lot of Hollywood couples that you can simply tell won’t work, but Dax and Kristen are genuine, adorable, and maybe a even a little obnoxious in their affection for one another. They capture, in Hit & Run, what so many movie relationships do not: When people are truly, madly in love, they’re part adorable and part insufferable. When they speak to each other affectionately, they use their schmoopy voices and I doubt they even mean to, and when they are arguing, in Shepard’s voice, there’s a real hint of whininess true to so many real-life arguments between couples. It’s equally sweet and grating, but there is nevertheless something endearing about watching two people clearly smitten with one another interact onscreen.
The movie itself, which — despite adverts and a title to the contrary — is largely a conversation film with a few car chase scenes interspersed. Written and co-directed by Shepard, you get the feeling that many of the exchanges between his character, Charlie, and Bell’s character, Annie, have been adapted to the screen from their own conversations and argumentes. Charlie’s a sweet, shaggy guy, a little goofy, a little rough, who is stuck in the small-town of Milton on account of being in the Witness Protection Program. Annie, politically correct almost to the point of annoying, is a professor at a small college in Milton who has been offered a teaching position in Los Angeles. The catch? Charlie can’t return to Los Angeles because the people he’s hiding from live there, and also Annie doesn’t know that Charlie was more than just a witness to the crime; he was a participant, a getaway driver for bank robberies.
Charlie, worried that Annie will resent him if she doesn’t take the job, pulls his old getaway car out of storage and endeavors to drive Annie to the interview himself. There’s only one problem: Annie’s old boyfriend (Michael “The Douche” Rosenbaum), still hung up on her, connects Charlie’s license plate to his old name, befriends on Facebook the man who wants Charlie dead, Alex (a be-dreaded Bradley Cooper), and a cat-and-mouse chase ensues, involving the federal marshall tasked with protecting Charlie (Tom Arnold), and Alex and Charlie’s old co-conspirators (Joy Bryant and Ryan Hansen).
The whole movie feels like a group of friends getting together and deciding to make a film for shits and giggles, and best I can tell, that’s exactly what it is. Dax Shepard writes a part for his girlfriend, he brings along his fictional girlfriend from “Parenthood” (Joy Bryant), and Bell brings along Ryan Hanson from “Veronica Mars.” I’m not sure what the real connection between Bradley Cooper and Dax Shepard is, but clearly they are friends. Cooper was in Shepard’s first film, Brother’s Justice, and they both appeared in cameos in The Comebacks (with David Koechner, who also has a role in Hit & Run). In fact, you can pretty much connect the entire cast together through other projects, but there’s something refreshing about seeing people make a movie to spend time with old friends rather than for a purely financial motive.
But that characterization also does a disservice to a fairly amusing film. There are some genuinely funny moments, although Shepard and his co-director, David Palmer, aren’t particularly adept with actions scenes (there are some cable-access grade slo-mo sequences to contend with). The story itself runs on the charm of the actors rather than the script. It’s not an outstanding movie, and certainly not worth a trip to theaters for those who are selective about their moviegoing decisions. Still one day it’ll make fun and pleasant Saturday evening diversion on Netflix, if only to rage with jealousy at the perfect relationship between Dax Shepard and Kristen Bell.