Saturday, August 30, 2014

Hit and Run (2012) ***1/2

I don't know how this movie snuck past me before this. I remember liking the trailer, but then I forgot about it until it popped up on Netflix the other day. I'm glad it did, because this movie is nothing but fun! Kristen Bell, of course, is adorable. I would watch her in anything. Dax Shepard, who co-stars, co-directs, and wrote the screenplay, is very naturalistic and likeable. It's Bradley Cooper in dreadlocks, however, that puts the movie over the top.

Shepard plays Charles (AKA Yul), a pleasant guy living in a sleepy town as part of the witness protection program. His world gets turned upside down when his girlfriend, Annie (Kristen Bell), is offered her dream job in the one place he can't safely visit, Las Angeles. Throwing caution to the wind, Charles whisks Annie off to L.A. in his classic Lincoln Continental, trailed by all kinds of trouble in the form of Annie's ex-boyfriend, Charles's police liaison (Tom Arnold), and Charles's old partner-in-crime Dmitry (Bradley Cooper).

“Hit and Run” is ironically titled, because all the characters are trying not to hit and run, but to build a stable relationship with someone. Charles and Annie are on the classic, relationship-testing road trip. Dmitry has his own committed relationship with his bank-robber girlfriend and their collection of dogs. Even Tom Arnold's U.S. Marshall finds love in the end.

Fortunately, with all this lovey-dovey stuff getting passed around, the movie manages to avoid sentimentality. “Hit and Run” gets it right by taking time to develop the characters as individuals, not just as chess pieces that have to be moved around in fast cars to serve the plot. There are fast cars, however. This is an action-comedy, after all, and “Hit and Run” strikes a nice balance between the two.

Another thing the movie gets right is the dialogue. Reminiscent of a Tarantino movie, the conversations in “Hit and Run” are treated as genuine events that matter to two people, not just as exposition or plot devices. Whether they are debating the use of homophobic slurs or the virtues of buying better dog food, the characters talk to each other like people who actually have something to say.

3.5 stars out of 5

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