08/21/2012 07:57 am ET Updated Oct 21, 2012

Review: Hit & Run

The title of Dax Shepard's Hit & Run doesn't really make sense, given the movie itself. If it implies car chases, well, that's accurate -- but, again, it's not about accidents.

The only thing accidental here is that this movie got made -- and they seem to have done that on purpose. Why? Apparently, to give Shepard a chance to work with his pals -- Bradley Cooper, David Koechner, Tom Arnold -- and his wife (Kristin Bell), while directing a movie himself (in tandem with pal David Palmer).

To what end? The chases aren't particularly thrilling, though they seem to be the whole point of the movie. Though the movie offers muscle cars operating at unsafe speed, the chases themselves seem flat and mundane, much like Shepard and Palmer's filmmaking.

Shepard plays Charlie Bronson, who lives in California farm country with his girlfriend, a local college professor named Annie (Bell). As it turns out, Charlie is in the witness protection program -- but that doesn't stop him from driving Annie to L.A. for a job interview at, apparently, UCLA.

That angers her ex-husband, Gil (Michael Rosenbaum), who is convinced that Charlie is a murderer. He also knows Charlie's real name -- Yul Perkins (as if this is a joke in itself) -- and uses it to notify the criminal against whom Charlie testified that Charlie is coming out of hiding and heading his way. The bad guy, Alex (Bradley Cooper in hideous dreadlocks), gets the film's only good scene, confronting a dog owner in a grocery store line about feeding his pet bad dog food.

Shepard's writing is jokey but not particularly funny. The same is true of his sense of action. While there are moments that seem smart and promising, they come along too rarely to fulfill any actual promise.

Shepard, who is on TV's Parenthood, has the same loosey-goosey physicality and delivery as Ashton Kutcher and a similar look and physique. But he can't get out of his own way here, and he does himself no favors by casting Tom Arnold -- possibly the least funny, most irritating actor working regularly in movies -- as a U.S. marshal who's a klutz with his gun. Only Cooper, as the guy who's out to get Charlie, seems to find the offbeat rhythms to give his role a little -- very little -- snap.

Otherwise, Hit & Run is like a car doing doughnuts, driving in circles while going nowhere fast.

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