This film image released by Open Road Films shows, Kristen...

This film image released by Open Road Films shows, Kristen Bell, left, and Dax Shepard in a scene from "Hit & Run." Credit: AP

A cute, friendly little movie made by a little group of cute friends, "Hit & Run" stars real-life couple Dax Shepard (NBC's "Parenthood") and Kristen Bell as an ex-criminal and his girlfriend. Shepard, who wrote and codirected with David Palmer (they collaborated on 2010's "Brother's Justice"), also cast actors from his social circle, including Bradley Cooper and Tom Arnold. They're all clearly having fun, though that's not the same as making a movie.

Shepard plays small-town slacker Charlie Bronson -- that's his witness protection moniker -- whose girlfriend, Annie Bean (Bell), assumes he testified against mobsters. In fact, Charlie was a getaway driver who betrayed his bank-robbing partner, Alex Dmitri (Cooper). When Annie gets an important job interview in nearby Los Angeles, Charlie decides to leave his safety zone and drive there with her.

Enter the film's other star, Charlie's gorgeous, black, 1967 Lincoln Continental, which shifts "Hit & Run" into the gear of vintage car-chase comedies like "Eat My Dust" and "Smokey and the Bandit." Chasing the cute couple across California are various goofballs and bad guys: Annie's ex-boyfriend (Michael Rosenbaum), a U.S. marshal (Arnold), two local sheriffs (one played by Carly Hatter, Shepard's half-sister) and Alex's menacing gang.

All promising enough for a romp, but the ensemble's overly cozy camaraderie seeps into the entire film. The banter is cheerful and friendly no matter who's holding the gun; Charlie and Alex, ostensibly bitter enemies, seem ready to embrace any second. And for all the car chases and parking-lot doughnuts, that black Lincoln barely gets a scratch. (It, too, belongs to Shepard, a hot-rod aficionado and sometime racer).

"Hit & Run" is a pleasant, forgettable diversion, though its cast and crew probably took home the best memories.

PLOT A former criminal leaves witness protection to prove his love to a girl. RATING R (sexual references, graphic nudity, some violence, drug content)

CAST Dax Shepard, Kristen Bell, Bradley Cooper, Tom Arnold


PLAYING AT Area theaters

BOTTOM LINE Even for an action comedy this is awfully fluffy, with mild chase scenes punctuated by pleasant banter between real-life sweethearts Shepard and Bell.

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