By Rebecca Timberlake–

Big budget movies loaded with CGI and special effects are typically the top earners at the box office. In fact, it seems if it isn’t a sequel or an over the top 3D film, it doesn’t even get notice in the theaters. But occasionally, an independent sleeper hit will break the mold. “Hit and Run” does just this.

Within its runtime of one hour and forty minutes, “Hit and Run” manages to pack in all the fun action-packed car chases and scenes like the “Fast and Furious” franchise and all the loveable humor and charm of star, writer, co-director and co-producer Dax Shepard. Joining Shepard, who plays Charlie, is his real-life love Kristen Bell as Annie, Charlie’s girlfriend of a year, Bradley Cooper as criminal Alex Dimitri, who Charlie witnessed commit a bank robbery and murder, and Tom Arnold as Randy, the law officer in charge of keeping Charlie safe and sound in the Witness Protection Program. In addition to the big name actors portraying main characters, there are a slew of unpredictable cameos throughout the film guaranteed to get a chuckle.

The plot finds Charlie ready to leave Witness Protection in order to get Annie to an interview in Los Angeles for her dream job heading a department for a field of study she created herself at the college. However, due to the last-minute opening, Annie lets it slip to former boyfriend, who also happens to still be very in love and obsessed with her, Gil (Michael Rosenbaum of “Smallville”) that her and Charlie are moving. Claiming Charlie is unstable, Gil sets in motion a plan to tear the two apart and hopefully win Annie back. When Dmitri is alerted of Charlie’s whereabouts by Gil, he and his rag-tag team of criminals pursue the couple on their way to L.A.
Ultimately, Charlie is forced to do the one thing he has been most terrified of doing: telling Annie all about his past, and risking her leaving him forever.

It is in the intermingling of past and present relationships, however, that the audience truly comes to appreciate Charlie and see a genuine love between him and Annie. The character also gives a new perspective to Shepard as an actor different from his usual characters in films like “Employee of the Month” and “Without a Paddle.” Suddenly Shepard is a romantic lead, as well as a sweet and all around good guy. Similarly, Cooper steps out of his comfort zones of suave and sexy ‘bad’ boys like in “Wedding Crashers” and the “Hangover” franchise. Instead, Cooper is a dirty, dread-locked hair slacker with a quick temper and a passion for dogs. In some scenes it is difficult to know if his lines are truly hilarious, or if seeing less-than glamorous Bradley Cooper delivering those lines is what brings in the laughs.

Keeping with the shocking actor transformations, Tom Arnold does something he rarely does- entertain. Proving to be the scene-stealer of the film, Arnold plays a bumbling fool trying to get respect as a member of law enforcement despite the fact that he cannot handle his weapon without accidentally firing it in public places. And considering his concern over protecting Charlie, who seems to be the one taking care of Randy, his disposition to be the cause of accidents all around him is absolutely hilarious, no matter how serious and heartfelt the rest of the scene is.

In the end, if there is one major flaw of the entire movie, it’s that Shepard did not make it longer. Though it definitely does more than expected in less than two hours, one can’t help but wish there was just one more scene.

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Photo courtesy IMDs