Starrng: Will Smith, Eva Mendes, Kevin James, Amber Valletta. Rated PG-13.
not a lot of emotional honesty at the heart of Hitch, Will Smith’s modestly amusing foray into the world
of romantic comedy. As a leading man, Smith is goofy, endearing and even
disarming as the story he’s carrying races toward its ludicrous climax. But for
all his charms, even Big Willie can’t fully redeem a script that treats love
not as a complicated, vexing and powerful emotion, but as a word to be tossed
around lightly, often after a series of pratfalls and clever quips.
Even so, the movie almost
works. Until the final frames, it
is implausible, empty-headed entertainment that coasts on the good will
engendered by its stars. Smith plays Hitch, the legendary “date doctor” who
helps bumbling men land the women of their dreams. When he meets Albert (Kevin
James, of King of Queens fame), Hitch is
presented with his most daunting challenge: He must mold a clumsy, overweight
misfit into a stud capable of wooing gorgeous tabloid queen. He succeeds, of
course, all the while trying to mend his own romance with Sara (Eva Mendes), a
prominent New York gossip columnist who can’t seem to separate her career from
her love life. Needless to say, after a series of trials and tribulations
worthy of a sitcom, they all live happily ever after.
The premise of this feel-good story
is that any man, with
the right moves and a confident swagger, can sweep any woman off her feet. It’s
a sweetly innocent theory – albeit a tad naïve – and Hitch’s rambling,
metaphor-laden monologues about the glory of love are occasionally
heartwarming. (Imagine Bagger Vance strutting around Manhattan with Cupid’s
arrow.) There are plenty of laughs, too. While James is responsible for much of
the movie’s physical gags, relying heavily on the fat-guy-falls-down approach
to comedy, Smith has a way of delivering even the most pedestrian lines with a
zest that makes them amusing without being hammy.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that
Hitch loses its footing late in the game,
toward an over-the-top finale that’s a bit hard to stomach. Does everyone fall
in love after the third date? In his world, they do. Does a series of Three’s
Company-style misunderstandings threaten to
destroy their bliss? Of course. But in the end, these problems are all too
easily solved, and everyone gets a happy ending – with a bona fide music video
thrown in just before the closing credits. It’s fun to watch, but too
manipulative to be believed.