Kernel Rating (out of 5):
MPAA Rating: R Length: 100 minutes
Appropriate for ages 16 and up. The movie, which is definitely aimed at adults, pushes hard against uncomfortable boundaries—with instances of elderly, fully frontal nudity and some racial comments and rape jokes—though it manages to feel less offensive than the sum of its parts. There is some fighting and much gunplay, most of it comically careless and ineffective. One character takes a bullet to the shoulder and another a 3-iron to the nose, resulting in some blood. There is pervasive profanity and sexual frankness, as well as a casual mention of prescription drug abuse. Oh, and lots of very fast, very reckless driving.
With roles in Zathura and the NBC show “Parenthood”, actor Dax Shepard has some family-friendly cred. In Hit and Run, he aims for adult viewers with an appetite for fast cars, raunchy talk and… thoughtful romance?
By Jared Peterson
Shepard’s character Charlie is a willing ward of the Witness Protection Program who’s spent years hiding out in a rural California town. There he’s built a decent life and a great relationship with local professor Annie, played by Kristen Bell, Shepard’s real-life fiancée.
When she gets a once-in-a-lifetime job opportunity in Los Angeles, the very city Charlie fled after testifying against some bank robbers, he decides to risk detection to drive her to her interview. Of course, the criminals and authorities get wise, and the drive turns into a chase, giving Shepard (who wrote the screenplay and codirected with David Palmer) license to fire up a series of muscular cars and lovingly film them revving their engines and spinning more donuts than Krispy Kreme.
Charlie and Annie’s serene, mindful, connection is threatened when his true involvement with the criminals is revealed. But both characters and their director believe in the power of positive chatting. Though Hit and Run has car chases and dirty jokes aplenty, the movie is actually built around moments of romantic reflection, taking frequent breaks for the leading couple to ponder the dos and don’ts of a mature relationship.
Essentially, Dax Shepard has composed a valentine to two of his favorite things: muscle cars and Kristen Bell. I’ve never been a car guy, but I’m totally on board with K-Bell. I’ve respected (read: had a crush on) her for years—I’d pay full admission to a movie of her doing her taxes. And so it pains me to say that she and Shepard are kind of adorable together. Whomever said off-screen couples don’t have on-screen chemistry has a narrow view of the science. Sure, chemistry lights our rockets and fires our loins, but it also makes our yoga mats squishy and our Diet Dr. Pepper taste more like regular Dr. Pepper. Sometimes it’s just nice to watch something that we know already works do its thing. There’s a risk that the relationship might be seen as precious or self-indulgent. But (again, to my chagrin) Shepard and Bell’s affection appears genuine, and they seem like they’d be pretty fun to hang out with. In fact, watching Hit and Run is a little like having a Steve McQueen movie described to you in detail by a very sweet, very chatty couple at a dinner party.
The supporting players include some funny ex-TV talent, including Tom Arnold (“Roseanne”), Michael Rosenbaum (“Smallville”) and the pintsize Kristin Chenoweth (“The West Wing”, “Pushing Daisies”) as an acerbic boss trying to shove Annie out of her dead-end nest. This last bit of casting is particularly smart, since the petite blondes Bell and Chenoweth look like a before-and-after picture, the former’s sweetness fermented into sassy vinegar. And as the almost likeable villain, yes, that’s Bradley Cooper folded up under natty, blond dreadlocks—an attempt, perhaps, to escape overexposure on a technicality. (Though I guess if you’re Dax Shepard, and Bradley Cooper appears in your movie for even a second, you’re going to want to stick him in a wig and baggy clothes.)
Hit and Run pays equal homage to high horsepower and true love, making it a pretty interesting date movie—the twelfth date, maybe, when both parties are comfortable talking about both cars and their feelings.