‘Hit and Run’ is quick, dirty and cheap

IN HOLLYWOOD, summer has come to mean momentousness, a space where you can't play unless you've got a gargantuan budget and a 2.5-hour running time.

There's another kind of summer movie, nearly extinct, that's made of less exalted stuff - gunfights, car chases, maybe a dune buggy - and delivered in roughly 90 minutes or less.

Example: "Hit and Run," a road movie made on the cheap by Dax Shepard, who saves coin by directing, co-writing the script and casting fiancée Kristen Bell as his co-star.

They play boyfriend and girlfriend driving from nowhere to Los Angeles, where she's scheduled for a career-making job interview and he's exposing himself to dangers that have confined him to witness protection in aforementioned nowhere.

He's a reformed motor head, and they cruise via back roads to Los Angeles in his souped-up 700-horsepower Lincoln, chased by her weenie ex-boyfriend, a crash-prone federal marshal (Tom Arnold), a couple of highway patrol officers (a very modern take on the "Smokey and the Bandit" archetype) and ultimately some revenge-minded criminals (Bradley Cooper, Joy Bryant).

"Hit and Run" is a B-movie throwback, meant to be seen at a drive-in, where you can make out during the dull parts or honk your horn as Arnold runs his poor minivan into a tree for the fifth time.

The movie is often raunchy and earns its "R" rating. There are ad-libbed riffs on such subjects as prison rape that probably should have been blue-penciled.

And it serves as a referendum on Shepard, whose extremely laid-back persona works best in small doses, as on TV's "Parenthood."

A little trimming, and you're closer to the magic 90-minute mark and the brevity and simplicity implied in the title, which sounds like a '70s road movie and has some of the same spirit, even some of the same cars.

Contact movie critic Gary Thompson at 215-854-5992 or thompsg@phillynews.com. Read his blog at philly.com/KeepItReel.

Hit & Run

Directed by David Palmer, Dax Shepard. With Kristen Bell, Joy Bryant, Bradley Cooper, Michael Rosenbaum, Tom Arnold, Kristin Chenoweth, Dax Shepard, Beau Bridges. Distributed by Open Road Films.

Running time: 1 hours, 40 minutes.

Parent's guide: R (for pervasive language including sexual references, graphic nudity, some violence and drug content).