‘Hit and Run’ didn’t watch where it was going

The people on screen in “Hit and Run” appear to have having a good time: This shaggy movie is full of ad libs and sidebar conversations and eccentric character moments.

It’s not much of a film, though. What could have been a decent chase picture looks suspiciously like a home movie with a bunch of friends who think their charm will be enough to carry the day.

The chief culprit is Dax Shepard, the toothy comic actor from “When in Rome” and TV’s “Parenthood.” Shepard stars in the film and also wrote and co-directed it (with David Palmer). Adding to the home-movie quality is Kristen Bell, Shepard’s real-life companion, as the female lead.

They play a happy couple in a small town. When she gets a job offer in Los Angeles, it threatens their relationship in a novel way: Unbeknownst to her, he’s in the witness protection program, and doesn’t dare move back to L.A.

Well, that explains how he came to be known as Charles Bronson. No wonder it sounded like a made-up name.

What ensues is a car-oriented chase movie, because Charlie Bronson’s old partner in crime (an amusingly dreadlocked Bradley Cooper) finds out where he is and gives pursuit. The FBI agent (Tom Arnold) is also following, along with a variety of local authorities.

If “Hit and Run” weren’t so loosey-goosey, this would have the makings of an enjoyable drive-in movie, like a 1970s title with souped-up cars and wacky stunts. Shepard keeps pulling it toward comedy, so the momentum isn’t really what it should be.

I think Shepard can be a funny guy, and he’s an expert at playing numbskulls. According to the evidence of this movie, he seems to be extremely fond of Kristen Bell (who starred with him in “When in Rome”), and that’s nice. Not very exciting, but nice.

Every now and then the film tries to walk an edge between offensiveness and humor, such as the drawn-out dialogue between Shepard and Cooper about prison sexual assault. Yes, I know what you’re thinking: Gee, that’s “hilarious” to begin with, but then they add a layer of humor that would doubtless be excused as racial rather than racist, and at that point — well, fine line, and all that.

I applaud politically incorrect humor, but it’s all about the context, and “Hit and Run” rarely gets it right. The title is all too apt: This one feels like an accident in the process of happening.

“Hit and Run” ½

A mess of a chase comedy, with Dax Shepard and Kristen Bell on the run from a criminal (Bradley Cooper) and a variety of law-enforcement officials. To loosey-goosey to build much momentum, and the supposedly edgy humor doesn’t help.

Rated: R for violence, language, nudity.

Showing: xx.

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