'Hit and Run' hits full-speed fun

Special to the Tri-City HeraldAugust 21, 2012 

Charlie Bronson is a lovable goofball.

He lives a nice, quiet life, in a nice quiet podunk town. He's in love with the beautiful Annie. She's a rising star in the college ranks and has a shot at a dream job at UCLA in Los Angeles. Annie loves Charlie but when she tells him about the job, Charlie says he can't go to Los Angeles. In fact, Charlie can't go anywhere.

-- Local show times, theaters, trailer.

Turns out Charlie really isn't Charlie, and he's carrying a dark secret. Or two. Or three.

The first -- that he's really not Charlie -- puts a bit of a strain on the relationship with Annie. It doesn't come close to new reality that follows.

Chased by his old, revenge-seeking, bank-robbing gang, an ex-boyfriend wanting her back, a federal marshal just trying to keep up and battling to keep that all-important career-making job interview, Shepard's Charlie and a terribly confused Annie encounter a passel of problems -- personal and otherwise. The chase does not slow their bantering and bickering. It comes at lightning speed whether they're standing still or driving at lightening speed to escape this crisis or that.

Comedian Dax Shepard (TV's Parenthood) and real-life partner Kristen Bell (Forgetting Sarah Marshall and TV's Veronica Mars) anchor the cast.

And you can't cast a film much better than this one. Shepard's easy-going, folksy guy next door persona provides the fulcrum for great supporting performances from Bell, Tom Arnold, Bradley Cooper, Michael Rosenbaum and a cameo from Beau Bridges.

Shepard also writes and co-directs. His screenplay is low-key funny and while fairly predictable, does offer enough nifty twists and turns to keep things interesting. Shepard's screenplay lets him have lots of fun with Charlie and gives Bell a chance to stretch out of predictable rom-com roles into a three-dimensional woman who loves the guy but has trouble accepting the cascade of lies that follow them from their home in nowhere, Calif., to Los Angeles.

Cooper also moves into territory that's a bit different. He's exceptionally good as the main villain of the piece. Wrapping it up and doing some of his best comedy in years is Arnold. He gets the slapstick assignment and is perfect as Charlie's federal marshal friend.

Hit and Run pulls out all the stops. It burns rubber out of the gate, whips cleanly through all four gears, and after a clever pit stop or two, zooms across the finish line. Great characters, fast-paced storytelling, a superabundance of fast-paced car chases and wonderful comic performances from the ensemble cast make Hit and Run the most fun you've had in a theater all year.

Mr. Movie rating: 4 stars

Director: Dax Shepard, David Palmer

Stars: Dax Shepard, Kristen Bell, Bradley Cooper, Tom Arnold, Beau Bridges, Kristin Chenoweth, David Koechner.

Rated R for mature themes, language and some violence. It is playing at Regal's Columbia Center 8, the Fairchild Cinemas 12 and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.

5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen

4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.

3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD.

2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.

0 stars: Speaks for itself.

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