People close to me wouldn't be surprised to hear I went to the new Kristen Bell movie Thursday night, as I have a somewhat storied crush on her despite the fact she's done nothing all that memorable since Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and the fact that most of my infatuation for her stems from Veronica Mars which has been off the air since 2007. I wasn't expecting much from the movie, but as the movie started I found myself genuinely enjoying it.
As the film opens, we are quickly introduced to our leads – lovebirds Annie (Bell) and Charlie Bronson (Dax Shepard). They are almost too cutesy, but have no fear, we are quickly rescued from this romantic interlude when Annie leaves for work and we learn that Charlie is in Witness Protection. The inept Marshall in charge of his protection; Randy, played by Tom Arnold immediately establishes himself as the comic relief with a series of well timed pratfalls. The much under-appreciated Kristin Chenoweth is revealed as Debbie, Annie’s boss. Debbie is the character whose purpose is to introduce chaos onto the happy couple when she lines Annie up for a stellar job opportunity in Los Angeles – the one place Charlie cannot go to. Obviously, he decides to go anyway, a gamble that would probably work out fine if not for Gil; Annie’s Ex who is played to perfection, as usual, by
Lex Luthor Michael Rosenbaum.
Charlie’s return to LA is discovered by the very people he is hiding from – namely Alex (Bradley Cooper), Charlie’s ex-partner whom he sent to jail. Alex is joined by Neve (Joy Bryant – Shepard’s wife on Parenthood) and Alan (Ryan Hansen from Veronica Mars) as the trio hunt down our protagonists. All of that is evident from the trailer, and I don’t want to ruin anything for those who are planning on watching the movie, so that’s as far as I’ll go plot-wise, but I’ve got some issues…
Overall the movie was entertaining, at least what we saw of it. It did feel like we were missing a few scenes though. So much so that I sat through the entire credit roll waiting for more footage that never came. Several points went pretty much totally unresolved, and left me feeling like the movie was incomplete. From the fate of Charlie’s beautiful Lincoln to which they spend quite a bit of time assigning sentimental value, to a confrontation with David Koechner that seems inevitable but never happens, as well as the motivation for Neve to be upset with Charlie, it just seems like there is too much left unanswered.
Also, for what largely amounts to a chase movie, it seems like no lead is ever big enough, as the four principle cars are always able to find each other rather easily. At times it was reminiscent of It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World as the all the vehicles involved would just randomly find each other due to a circus of mishaps during a 500 mile trek.
Finally, Kristen Bell; my top motivation for seeing the movie – ended up being my least favorite part of it. It often seemed Bell was only on screen to lecture Charlie (and the audience) at inopportune times, and it felt like she seldom understood the danger she was in, which made her somewhat annoying. Basically, she played the Anti-Veronica Mars.
The comedy and action were blended nicely. The casting was great, the cars were cool (I want that Lincoln), and the soundtrack kicked ass. The slow motion burnout scene that featured Lou Rawls’ rendition of Pure Imagination was particularly enjoyable. However, when all was said and done, the film was far less satisfying than it promised it would be about 15 minutes prior. It’s a fun movie, an entertaining watch, and I’m not saying I wouldn’t see it again, but surely there is a longer cut of the film floating around somewhere that could’ve felt more fulfilling.
If you like watching Beau Bridges punch people in the face though, no movie this year is likely to better deliver on that.