By Leonard Maltin | Leonard Maltin August 24, 2012 at 1:29AM
Dax Shepard has modeled his new film Hit & Run—which he wrote, co-directed, and stars in—after his youthful favorite, Smokey and the Bandit. Like Burt Reynolds, he persuaded a bunch of his friends to join him in making a lighthearted car-chase movie with elements of comedy and romance. Far too often, such labors of love turn out to be more fun for the participants than they are for the audience. This is a happy exception.
From the opening scene, featuring Shepard and real-life fiancée Kristen Bell making pillow talk, you can tell that Hit & Run isn’t a cookie-cutter comedy. It doesn’t pander to or, worse, wink at its audience. This film’s characters are unusually articulate, and all that smart dialogue provides a disarming contrast to the action/road-movie scenes.
Shepard’s troupe includes Bradley Cooper (sporting dreadlocks, no less) as an ex-friend turned bitter enemy, Tom Arnold as a bumbling federal marshal, Kristin Chenoweth as Bell’s sharp-tongued boss, plus Joy Bryant, David Koechner, Jess Rowland, Michael Rosenbaum, and Beau Bridges. Each character gets a chance to shine in a series of funny, unpredictable episodes, as Shepard drives his girlfriend from Central California to Los Angeles for a job interview—little dreaming that he’ll be tailed by his former confederate in a bank-robbery gang.
Hit & Run is clearly a low-budget, DIY-type movie, but it’s original and thoroughly engaging. I went in with no expectations and had a good time.