Thursday, August 23, 2012

Hit and Run: 2H2(g) + O2(g) -> 2H2O(I)... That's Good Chemistry

It's amazing what a guy like Dax Shepard can do.  He began his career assisting Ashton Kutcher in pranking celebrities on the MTV show Punked.  From there he landed his first starring role in Without A Paddle, a little comedy no one remembers until they're scrolling the channels at 3 AM and lands on comedy central.  Not a bad movie, just not a good one.  Either way, Shepard's performance didn't hurt him, in fact, it may have given him a little bit of public face-time in order to cement himself as a comedic actor-- one who may have some staying power.  From there, though, the roles he took didn't help his cause at all.  From the little-seen Zathura, to the hardly seen Idiocracy (which I personally believe is a hilarious film) to basically killing his career in the abysmal Employee of the Month.  Then, Dax Shepard essentially dropped off the Hollywood map appearing only in random episodes of TV or tiny bit parts in movies just as bad as the ones he starred in (Old Dogs, When In Rome).  Finally, Shepard came back to the scene in a little indie film called The Freebie which was basically a less expensive, less scene, and way more depressing version of Hall Pass.  But, Shepard was bound and determined to make it back to mainstream Hollywood.  During his absence he kept busy.  He married the popularity-gaining Kristin Bell and decided to try his hand at writing and directing.  And while his writer/director debut, Brother's Justice, didn't gain him any attention from regular shmoe's like you or I... it did give him back a little credibility in the Hollywood mainstream.  His second project, Hit and Run, while it isn't anything to rave about, is another step in the right direction.

Now that you've been given the Dax Shepard history lesson, on to the movie. Hit and Run stars Shepard as Charlie "Charles" Bronson, a man whose past is a mystery, living in some bumfuck town during his tenure in witness protection.  He's dating Annie, played by his real-life wife Kristin Bell.  When Annie gets a job opportunity as a professor at a college in Los Angeles, Charlie jeopardizes his identity and safety and drives her across country for her interview.  This triggers a chain of events that isn't quite a "clusterfuck" but is definitely in the lower totem of cluster.  Annie's jealous ex-boyfriend Gil tails them on their journey and alerts the attention of Alex Dimitri (played by Bradley Cooper), who has a violent, but unknown agenda towards Charlie having something to do with the reason he's in witness protection in the first place.  Also tailing the couple is U.S. Marshall Randy (Tom Arnold) who has a legal obligation to stop Charlie from leaving witness protection.  From there on a series of events ensue that lend to humor, violence, and emotional distress, giving us... Hit and Run.

What works about Hit and Run isn't its story, it isn't its set-ups and payoffs, it isn't the laughs (and there are a few good ones) and it isn't the strange dreadlocked performance by Bradley Cooper.  The strength of the film lies solely on the shoulders of Dax Shepard and Kristin Bell's chemistry as a couple, because they have it.  Their interactions as a couple, their relationship nuances, love and squabbling are all realistic.  There aren't a whole lot of couples that can pull off real chemistry, if you don't believe me rent Gigli.  There is no doubt in my mind that most of the interactions between the two stem from real life experiences, which gives the movie its organic flow not only in plot but in character development.  Charlie and Annie really are the only characters you care about, which is good because they are the only ones that need to be cared about.  Bradley Cooper as the pissed off Randy is very very funny, but it's not the heart of the movie.  He's the wildcard, he's the side character that is only really there to further the plot and get the laughs.

That being said, Hit and Run didn't entirely do it for me as a whole.  It's marketed as a raunchy and violent action-comedy when really it's not that raunchy and there isn't that much action.  It's an indie movie disguised as a big budget action film with a few simple car chases spliced between actual heartfelt conversation.  If that's what it wanted to be, then I guess it works, but I don't believe that's what it wanted to be.  If you're given free reign to write and produce a hard-R rated action comedy why not go balls out crazy with it.  It's rated R!  Do what you want!  This is what my biggest problem with Ted was.  You've got an R rated comedy starring a foul-mouthed teddy bear -- make him a foul-mouthed teddy bear!  Ted wasn't even that raunchy of a movie save for a line here or there.  South Park knows how to push the boundaries.  Any episode of South Park in the last ten years is a million times more raunchy and graphic and downright outrageous than Ted ever tried to be.  I guarantee you that movie would've been much funnier had Trey Parker and Matt Stone lent a hand.

Hit and Run is no different.  There are a couple of raucous moments in there but none enough to warrant an R.  While these scenes solidified its R rating, had they been cut out the movie would've been the same and probably just as funny.  One scene in particular, which if you've seen the red-band trailer has already been spoiled for you, involves Charlie and Annie accidentally walking in on a real life lemon party (if you don't know what that is, I don't recommend you googling it around anyone, ever).  The scene is gross-out, but it's not over the top.  It comes and goes, comes back once more, but the joke is dead.  If Shepard had this mindset for the whole film, it would've been a lot funnier.  What the film needs is to recognize what it is.  It tries occasionally but ends up looking embarrassed and tries to cover it up with a cute moment with Charlie and Annie.  It should've been no holds barred, but it barred a lot.  It barred too much.


A Reason to go to the Movies: Upcoming Best