Who is this Dax Shepard guy and where does he get the nerve to write, co-direct and star in an enjoyable movie? Shepard's first notable role was as a prankster on Punk'd (the Ashton Kutcher version, if that makes it any better). Since then, he's mostly been floundering around Hollywood co-starring in forgettable comedies like Without a Paddle and Employee of the Month. But with Hit & Run, he has takes a rather simplistic storyline and makes it work.
Shepard plays Charlie Bronson, a name he picked for himself when going into witness protection and relocating to a small town located nowhere. Charlie used to be Yul Perkins in Los Angeles, where he served as the getaway man in a dozen or so bank robberies. His do-no-wrong schoolteacher girlfriend Annie (Kristen Bell) doesn't know the whole story. Yul testified against his friends (Bradley Cooper’s Alex Dimitri is the only one worth noting) to avoid jail time after one robbery ended up in a shooting, but to Annie, all her boyfriend did was witness a crime.
When Annie gets an interview for the perfect job in LA, Charlie can't bear letting her turn it down because of him. They make the trip out west, where Alex and friends are out of jail and awaiting their arrival, thanks to a tipoff from Annie's obsessive ex-boyfriend Gil (Michael Rosenbaum). Car chases and comedy ensue, with a good helping of laughs coming from Tom Arnold, playing Charlie's assigned federal marshal who seems to follow the principles of Murphy's law.
Hit & Run doesn't overwhelm with the action, and it was a pleasant surprise to find that the first half of the movie is more about character development, with the cat and mouse antics coming later. The humor is spread across the whole thing, though, which helps make for an appropriate pace.
Shepard and Bell are dating in real life, and their rapport translates organically to the screen. They're both very easy to root for as individuals and as a couple, and it's amazing that Bell is actually playing a character that isn't intolerable. Their relationship raises an intriguing question — Would you still love a person if you found out something not so flattering about their past? Certainly that's not new territory for a film to explore, yet Hit & Run presents it in a way that will make you take a moment to think about it.
Hit & Run won't be a big box office draw, nor will it garner much critical acclaim. And that's perfectly fine, because Shepard knows his film's place in the cinematic food chain. Neither an epic technical masterpiece nor an emotional rollercoaster, Hit & Run fits well in the gap between the summer blockbusters and Oscar season hopefuls.