Film Reviews: Wednesday, February 9, 2005
Hitch
Starring Will Smith and Eva Mendes. Directed by Andy Tennant. Written by Kevin Bisch. Rated PG-13.
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Doctor, Hook Up Thyself

Will Smith’s latest comedy goes well before it develops
a Hitch.

By KRISTIAN LIN

Hitch begins with a smooth-talking, handsome, well-dressed guy speaking to the camera in a laid-back, breezy, worldly wise but not jaded tone about the perils of the New York dating scene. We saw the same thing a few months ago in the Alfie remake, but this comedy wears its single-guy wisdom much more lightly, and it’s much more of a good time for the first hour or so. Had this movie run 90 minutes, it might have been a brilliant little trifle. Unfortunately, it’s two hours long.
Will Smith — the handsome guy referred to in the first sentence — plays Alex Hitchens, a man who describes himself vaguely as a consultant but who really makes his living as “The Date Doctor,” helping men who aren’t as good-looking or charming as Will Smith to make the right impression on women in dating situations. The Date Doctor’s bachelor existence becomes complicated, though, when he meets an intelligent, witty Manhattan gossip columnist (Eva Mendes). Suddenly, all the moves that he’s recommended to other men backfire when he tries to use them himself.
Only in the movie’s ill-fitting second half is that last development taken up in earnest — too earnest as it turns out. Like many other Hollywood romantic comedies, Hitch eventually forgets to be funny and tries to deal with the serious side of love. That tone takes what flavor there is out of the comedy, and when Hitch is forced to examine his own personal issues, all it does is draw Smith away from the act that he still does best — that of a player who’s just enough of a goofball to be engaging.
The other major problem is the lead actress. Mendes has little chemistry with Smith, but that’s the least of it. This is the first role that’s really given her a lot to do, and it’s distressingly clear that she’s no good at this kind of quick-witted light comedy. Her comic timing is consistently a half-second slow, she never locks in on a defining quality in this (indifferently written, to be sure) character, and though she makes a valiant attempt at projecting the proper sparkle, it doesn’t happen.
It’s too bad the film bogs down like this, because its initial comic energy propels it quite a ways. The cause is especially helped by Kevin James as a tubby asthmatic junior investment banker who enlists Hitch’s help with a supermodel-looking heiress (Amber Valletta). The star of tv’s The King of Queens is so good here that he even redeems the “fat guy dancing” comedy cliché by making the bit consistent with his character — a deeply unhip man who’s nevertheless in touch with his wild side. Smith generously lets his co-star have the spotlight in their scenes together, and with one last big laugh right at the end, James steals this comedy clean away from the star, dancing as he goes.


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