Presumably tired of his annual role as earth’s savior, Will Smith branches out into the romantic comedy genre as the title character in Hitch. In his first foray into the genre, he brings a spirit and freshness that’s been mostly vacant in this category.
A walking relationship how-to book, the charismatic Hitch spends his time helping sad sack unrefined guys find love and spouting occasionally useful tidbits directly into the camera lens. A nice job if you can get it, the spoils have seemingly landed him a first-rate apartment and a top of the line wardrobe.
Between the well-tailored leading character and his recurrent dialogue with the audience, Hitch possesses more than a passing relation to last year’s Jude Law showcase Alfie.
Additionally comparable to his Alfie playboy counterpart, Hitch’s relationships have tended to be one-and-done affairs with no emotional attachment.
Refusing to get romantically involved after a former flame broke his heart, Hitch has dedicated his life to preventing the same thing from happening to other guys. A noble, if utterly unrealistic goal, Hitch is a teacher only interested in educating if the student’s intentions are sincere. What Hitch thinks of his own apparent hypocritical approach and frequent one-night stands goes conveniently unmentioned.
Enter Albert, an accident-prone romantic played by King of Queens’ Kevin James. The good-hearted fool, it’s James’ job to act as inept as he can (whether it be spilling mustard all over or walking through his office without his pants on) to endear himself to the audience.
Conversely, it’s the Fresh Prince’s job to hook Albert up with the girl of his dreams, the high-profile celebrity Allegra Cole (played by former model Amber Valletta). Hitch amply tries to reel in James’ overzealous dope long enough to get him noticed by his fantasy. This results in one of the least believable courting sequences ever put to film, but gives you enough laughs to ignore the plausibility of what’s going on onscreen.
Meanwhile, Hitch finds himself getting overly attached to Sara (Eva Mendes), an emotional and reclusive journalist who never dates and works all the time. Hitch tries to get her to let down her “I hate guys” defense long enough to work in a few dates and charm her into liking him. Thing is, whenever Hitch is around her he seems to transform into another version of Albert, persistently screwing things up on every date and fumbling around like the hapless guys he teaches.
For as lively a character as Will Smith makes Hitch, Eva Mendes has the adverse effect on Sara. She’s a boring, typical workaholic found in many of these formulaic romantic comedies and Mendes doesn’t make it any better by having the emotive expressiveness of a Barbie doll. The movie would probably have been better off if the part had gone to a more instantly likable actress.
But the truth of it is that Will Smith is a natural. He’s been spouting off his comedic one-liners in action flicks for so long, there wasn’t really any doubt it’d transfer over into other roles. Whether he’s delivering the fairly obvious tips (the screenplay is not the highlight of the film) or just giving his best effort to entertain, you can’t help but like the guy.
Hitch might not be a charmer, but his heart is in the right place.
Brian Mulligan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.