Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Hit & Run

Lots Of Running, And Little Hitting, On The Road To LA

Kristen Bell as Annie and Dax Shepard as Charlie in Mr. Shepard's road comedy "Hit & Run". 
Open Road


Omar P.L. Moore/        Follow popcornreel on Twitter FOLLOW                                           
Wednesday, August 22, 2012

There's unbearable tension -- at least a feeling something bad will happen in the opening scene of David Palmer and Dax Shepard's outrageously foolish road comedy "Hit & Run", which opened today across the U.S. and Canada.  When that moment passes the movie exhales, relaxes and deflates into familiar caricatured comedy that is forced, over-the-top farce, quickly exhausting itself by the one-hour mark. 

Mr. Shepard, who wrote the screenplay, stars as Charlie Bronson, a Milton Valley, California witness protection program member who had been involved in a bank robbery with accomplices Alex (Bradley Cooper, in dreadlocks) and Neve (Joy Bryant).  The shaggy-haired Charlie is tasked with getting girlfriend Annie (Kristen Bell) to Los Angeles for a job interview before day's end.  Charlie in his deep black Continental car, has to elude Alex and Neve, Annie's ex-boyfriend, and a U.S. Marshal who does more damage to himself than he does trying to protect Charlie.

Some of the banter between Annie, the only real pragmatist in the film, and Charlie, is reminiscent of the talk bandied about in the original "Hangover" film, though not nearly as funny or sharp, even with Mr. Cooper's presence here.  "Hit & Run" is spoiled by, and plays with, a homophobic atmosphere, taking pains to have characters decry homophobia yet have others reinforce it.  And overall "Hit & Run" reinforces its stereotyping and fear of gays but attempts to couch that fear in benign, sugar-coated, cartoonish ways.  (Perhaps, just maybe, the "in-joke" of the filmmakers is that one or two of the actors who appear in the film are gay or at least thought of by the public in that way.)  One white male character spendr inordinate time preoccupied with black men and their fear of them, as well as other xenophobias. 

Needless episodes are designed purely to provoke, including one instantly reminding me of the atrocity that befell James Byrd in Texas in the 1990s -- except it was being played for laughs.  No one in the audience however, was laughing.  You could feel an uncomfortable silence.  "Hit & Run" wallows in the insecurities and homoerotic preoccupations of its makers as some kind of deeply-secreted fantasy.  Is there something about some events here that gets them off?  I sincerely asked myself that question as I watched this low-calorie mess.  The obsession with the taming of the "brute" (especially the "black brute") in films like "Pulp Fiction", Tim Burton's "Batman" and countless other films before and after gets me thinking that there's a titillation factor and more afoot than merely cheap comedy.

The other problem with "Hit & Run" is that it is thin and hungry.  It hasn't ingested a good comedy idea in weeks.  There's no meat at all on its bones -- not even comedy meat -- and the one or two laughs it registers are low-lying fruit previously picked off in many a movie.  "Hit & Run" is a dull, blunt instrument.  Any genuine warmth or sincere moments between Annie and Charlie are obliterated by needless dialogue from others about irrelevant things that don't advance the film's plot or cause.  "Hit & Run", a film on borrowed time and ideas, has little endeavor or places to go, and each time it runs out of gas it tries to energize itself with electromagnetic shock treatments that don't work.  You've seen these shock attempts before.  I've seen them in my movie sleep. 

"Hit & Run" isn't even an intelligent brainless comedy -- and those films exist ("Hot Tub Time Machine", "The Hangover", among others) -- and when you have to resort to repeated side-gags of naked people slumbering as if ready for a shoot for another kind of film altogether, you know that your own film is D.O.A.  Brainless comedy is perfectly fine but lazy comedy isn't.  There's no fun in it.  It's one-note, and it's much worse than that when you have talented performers mail in their work for a paycheck.  Worse yet, the actors don't look like they're having fun with this craziness.  I can't say I blame them but I do blame the "lame" material.

Simply put, "Hit & Run" is instantly forgettable, and like much of this lousy movie summer's Hollywood fare, gone in sixty seconds.  I did notice some of the cars in this film, and those were nice (I suppose.)  Oh well.  A little boy's grand juvenile adventure run amok.  Running to L.A. and back would be funnier than "Hit & Run".

Something you may find yourself thinking if you watch the end credits: it really took two people to direct this?

Also with: Tom Arnold, Michael Rosenbaum, Kristin Chenoweth, Jess Rowland, Beau Bridges, David Koechner, and a few cameo appearances from actors you'll recognize.

"Hit & Run" is rated R by the Motion Picture Association Of America for pervasive language including sexual references, graphic nudity, some violence and drug content.  The film's duration is one hour and 40 minutes.

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