Starring Will Smith, Kevin James, Eva Mendes, Amber Valletta, Julie Ann Emery, Robinne Lee, Nathan Lee Graham, Adam Arkin, Michael Rapaport, Jeffrey Donovan, Paula Patton, Philip Bosco, Kevin Sussman, Navia Nguyen, Matt Malloy, Maria Thayer, Ato Essandoh, Nayokah Afflack and Jack Hartnett.
Screenplay by Kevin Bisch.
Directed by Andy Tennant.
Distributed by Columbia Pictures. 115 minutes. Rated PG.
Will Smith is a very charming and likable actor who in general has very bad taste in projects. He’s made his name as a movie star in a series of bad sci-fi films (Independence Day, Men in Black, I Robot). However, surprisingly, this is his first romantic comedy, unless you count his cameo in Jersey Girl or his long-ago sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.
Well, on the evidence of Hitch, it is a long overdue career path. This is by far Smith’s best film since… well, ever.
Which is not to say that Hitch is a great film. It is not. However, it is a sweet, funny, romantic story that skims over some story problems on the strength of several very nice performances.
Smith plays Alex Hitchens, a legendary “date doctor” in modern Manhattan who insists that he can take any guy, even the biggest loser, and help him win over any woman no matter how beautiful she is. It’s a sweet, fanciful premise (though if you get technical its storyline is even more science fiction than Men in Black was).
Hitch will teach the guy how to dress, how to listen, how to act, how to talk to the women. He flies under the radar, all his jobs are through referrals by happy former clients and Hitch will not give the people any information on himself until he has decided to take them on. He will only help men who truly respect and love the women. (In one scene, he dramatically refuses a Wall Street power broker who is just trying to get laid.)
Hitch’s latest case is that of Albert Brennaman (Kevin James of TV’s The King of Queens). Brennaman is fat, sloppy, clumsy, insecure and dances like a white guy. However, Hitch also sees the good in him, and sees that he is genuinely in love, so he takes him on as a client.
To make things even more complicated, the woman that Albert is smitten with is Allegra Cole (Amber Valetta), a beautiful, rich heiress who is a staple of the New York gossip columns (think an older, prettier, more grounded and more talented Paris Hilton). Albert works for the law firm that handles her financial affairs and has been pining for her from afar for years.
Hitch helps to polish the guy up, giving him tips on conversation and listening, dancing and personal hygiene (and yes, that does include a back waxing). When Albert is ready, he captures Allegra’s attention by standing up for her during a business meeting, going against his bosses wishes. Then he dramatically quits (though the fact that he has given up his job is never mentioned again and he keeps going to work there afterwards).
Despite being named after an allergy medication, it turns out that Allegra is just a normal gal. She appreciates it that Albert would speak up for her and treats her just like anyone else, even though she is wealthy enough to buy and sell him.
In the meantime, the good doctor meets a beautiful tabloid gossip columnist named Sara (Eva Mendes). Sara is a hard-boiled career woman who insists that she has no time for romance, but is really just waiting to be swept off her feet. You know that Hitch is in love, because instead of being his normal assured, suave self, he is suddenly a walking disaster area. However, she thinks he’s cute so she’s willing to give him a second chance.
In one of the many coincidences and stretches of logic in the plot, it turns out that the Wall Street lothario who Hitch refused seduces Sara’s best friend and blames it on Hitch. So, Sara goes off her 24/7 Allegra gossip watch to write an article to prove that the date doctor is not just an urban myth.
Okay, we’re not talking Oscar caliber story-telling here, but it is a fun and cute romantic trifle. Both couples generate sufficient chemistry to keep the audience on board with the love story. Truth is though, the best scenes in Hitch are the ones when the girls aren’t around and Smith and James are able to work their comic riffs off of each other. That’s when Hitch produces some real heat. (2/05)
Copyright ©2005 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: February 19, 2005.