DVD Release Date: January 8, 2013
Theatrical Release Date: August 24, 2012
Rating: R for pervasive language including sexual references, graphic nudity, some violence and drug content
Genre: Comedy
Run Time: 100 min.
Director: David Palmer, Dax Shepherd
Cast: Dax Shepard, Kristen Bell, Bradley Cooper, Tom Arnold, Kristen Chenoweth, Beau Bridges

If, as Wall Street Journal film critic Joe Morgenstern wrote recently, the great dividing line in today’s movies is between those that are alive on the screen (well performed, well written, energetic) versus those that are dead on screen (clichéd, tired, bombastic), then Hit and Run would qualify as alive. Although the story and its action aren’t wholly original, the performers bring a zest to the screen, giving their all to their performances.

But Hit and Run, written by and starring Dax Shepard (When in Rome), shows the limits of Morgenstern’s classification scheme. Just because a movie is "alive" on screen doesn’t mean it’s worth your time, doesn’t mean it will leave you intellectually stimulated or edified. At best, Hit and Run is a diversion, entertaining for a time, but coarse on the eyes and tough on the ears.

Former getaway-car driver Charlie Bronson (Shepherd) is living a happy life in the Witness Protection Program when his girlfriend, Annie (Kristen Bell, Big Miracle), receives a job opportunity in Los Angeles. Tailored around her specialty in nonviolent conflict resolution, the one-of-a-kind job is something Annie can’t pass up, even if it risks her relationship with Charlie.

After balking at the news initially, Charlie decides to drive Annie to her interview. That’s when things get hairy. Annie’s old flame (Michael Rosenbaum, Old Skool), suspicious of Charlie, uses Google to quickly learn Charlie’s real name and the circumstances of the crime that put Charlie in witness protection. Worried for the safety of Annie, the former boyfriend contacts the person Charlie fingered as a partner in crime (Bradley Cooper, The Hangover), who promptly shows up looking to even the score.

Shepard has an appealing, laid-back presence on screen, although his character in Hit and Run is overshadowed somewhat by an array of supporting performances—Cooper’s foremost among them, although Kristen Chenoweth (Deck the Halls) and Tom Arnold (True Lies) give him a run for his money—that give the film much of its energy. Bell is fine as the girlfriend committed to nonviolence but caught up in a revenge scheme that involves guns and a broken nose.

We never care too much about the people in Hit and Run, but that’s not a fatal flaw. The film is the type of zany comedy that moves along at a certain clip and is more about momentum than it is about investment in any of its characters. A film it resembles in tone is the crime caper Smokin’ Aces from a few years ago. Or, better yet, Smokey and the Bandit, which Shephard is on record as naming as his favorite film. Like that film, Hit and Run is an outlaw comedy with fast cars and plenty of zany chase scenes. The problem is that Shepard’s script, co-written with director David Palmer (Brother's Justice), is too crude. There are jokes about race that spark outrage, and an offensive level of sexual violence.