How long has it been since you thought to yourself, “Gee, I’m glad Tom Arnold still gets work.”? If you’re like me, it’s been a while. After seeing him bumble through “Hit and Run,” a new chase movie starring Dax Shepard and Kristen Bell, the question I asked myself was, “How does Tom Arnold still get work?”
When the movie opens Charlie and Annie (Shepard and Bell) are living a simple, quiet life in a small village. She teaches at the community college, he looks after the house. When she’s offered her dream job in Los Angeles, however, their simple life gets complicated. Turns out he had a much different life before moving to–or should we say being relocated to–their tiny town. He was moved there as part of the Witness Protection Program after testifying against some very dangerous bank robbers he used to drive get-a-way cars for. In hiding for four years, he’s changed his life, and Annie is a big part of that. If he goes to LA he’s in danger, but if he stays, he’ll lose her. Of course he hits the road, unfortunately so do his old partners and Annie’s ex boyfriend.
The main characters in “Hit and Run” are likable. Shepard and Bell are a couple in real life and the chemistry between them shows. When it’s just the two of them on screen “Hit and Run” has the makings of a fun action adventure. Unfortunately the movie is populated by peripheral characters with the combined charm of a slap (stick) to the face.
Comedy is about context and even a giggler about the rarefied event of Witness Protection has to have one foot in reality in order for the jokes to register. I can believe Charlie is in hiding, what I can’t believe, or care about, are the broadly drawn characters that clutter up the movie.
Arnold’s can’t-shoot-straight US Marshall is such a cartoon he makes Fred Flintstone seem like Orson Welles. It’s that kind of slapstick that takes you out of the story. Add to that a pill-popping school administrator and an ex-boyfriend who talks about “role playing with your corpse,” and you have a cast that is more annoying than funny.
Not to play pile-on, but for a movie that features cars in hot pursuit of one another, the chases are kind of dull. ” Bullitt ” this ain’t. Whoever had the idea of staging a chase in an abandoned airstrip, where the cars essentially drive around in circles, needs to have another look at “The French Connection” to see how a car chase is actually done. Not even Jimi Hendrix stretching the strings on the soundtrack can turn up the volume on these sequences.
At the heart of “Hit and Run,” which is also Shepard’s directorial debut, is a good old fashioned chase movie like the kind Roger Corman used to make for drive-in audiences. Too bad this movie gets a few less miles to the gallon than Corman used to.