(On Cable TV, November 2017) Why does it seem so hard for Hollywood to make an R-rated action comedy these days? I may be selectively misremembering things, but it seems to me that every halfway promising action comedy screws things up by throwing far too much crassness, gore and unfunny material into the mix, until even the good bits are drowned out by the bad ones. The case in point here is CHiPS, another unsuccessful attempt to bring an old TV show to the big screen. To be fair, there are a few things to like in the result. Michael Peña is fantastic in a super-organized horndog role, stealing scenes as he reliably does. Co-star Dax Shepard (who also co-wrote and directed) is far less successful, playing an abrasive screw-up that annoys more than he amuses. While the plot (revolving around uncovering crooked cops) has some heft to it, it often becomes far too violent (witness: graphic suicide-by-throwing-oneself-out-of-a-helicopter, graphic decapitation, graphic amputation of a lead character’s limbs) to remain fun as a comedy. While some mature content is fine, CHiPS often overplays its hand into something repellent in what isn’t supposed to be a gross-out comedy. Fortunately, the stunts and action scenes are generally solid despite being hyperactive—knowing Shepard’s fondness for cars (as seen in Hit and Run), it’s easy to understand why he’d take on CHiPS as an almost-passion project. There are a few known faces (David Koechner, Maya Rudolph and, of course, Kristen Bell as Shepard’s wife) in minor roles. The sunny Los Angeles setting is used effectively, and doesn’t revisit overly familiar places. Alas, the script does feel lazy, especially once it takes up running gags that aren’t funny the first time and then proceed to grow increasingly exasperating through repetition. The result is not particularly good, although it does have some better moments thanks to Peña and the action scenes. Still, especially as compared to not-so-distant examples of the form such as 21 Jump Street, it’s disappointing.
(On Cable TV, September 2012) Oddball films certainly have their share of charm, and Hit and Run shows some of the goofy fun to be found in low-end Hollywood productions that often show up as cable releases or Video-on-demand premieres. Co-written-and-directed by actor Dax Shepard (who stars in the film along with real-life-girlfriend Kirsten Bell), Hit and Run boasts of an interesting cast of comedians, an amiable rhythm, some amusing dialogue, a love of cars and a script that ends up being a bit tighter than you’d expect from the first half of the film. Here, an expert driver with a shady past is forced out of his Witness Relocation Program identity by the professional aspiration of his girlfriend. Going back to Los Angeles means tangling anew with a criminal crowd he thought he’d left behind, but that’s the fun of the film as various groups and people connect on the way to L.A. The dialogue is pure laid-back California, the tangents are plentiful (although the ending ties a lot of them back together), Shepard anchors Hit and Run with an easygoing protagonist and the result is enjoyable on its own.