Well intentioned but painfully twee, the indie road trip comedy “Better Start Running” aims to tell the story of two young dreamers on the run from the law but gets bogged down in quirkiness, early and often. An accomplished cast does what it can to bring the material to life, but it’s tough to add fine emotional shading to characters so thick and cartoonish.
Alex Sharp stars as Harley, who works at a Wal-Mart-like big-box store alongside his secret crush, Stephanie (Analeigh Tipton). After the pair is goaded into assaulting their jerky boss, they hit the road with Harley’s grandpa (Jeremy Irons) and a philosophical drifter (Edi Gathegi), trying to enjoy themselves as much as they can before they’re caught by a surly FBI veteran (Maria Bello) and her wide-eyed partner (Karan Soni).
“Better Start Running” frequently crosses the line from “breezy” to “air-headed.” Director Brett Simon and co-screenwriters Chad Faust and Annie Burgstede clearly have a lot of affection for Harley and Stephanie, who’ve been abused and underestimated their whole lives. But they still paint these two adults as half-wit adolescents, incapable of thinking ahead, and unironically impressed by tourist traps.
American filmmakers are often criticized for being out of touch with their own heartland. But sometimes, movies that intend to honor the plucky can-do small-town spirit inadvertently come off as more insulting than the ones that assume everyone between the coasts is a bigoted rube.
‘Better Start Running’
Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes
Playing: Starts Oct. 12, Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills