"In cooking, as in all the arts, simplicity is a sign of perfection." - Curnonsky

Thursday, February 28, 2008

DVD Review: Hitch

Among comedic talents, only Jack Black and Will Smith have the ability to carry a picture solely based on their personalities. Ben Stiller needs a good script. Vince Vaughn needs a sidekick. Even Will Ferrell needs some guidance from a director. But put Black or Smith in front of a camera, get out of the way and you'll have a hit.

School of Rock was a short film plus an hour of Black mugging with kids — and it worked. In Hitch, Smith is too perfectly cast as a charismatic date doctor who overcomes his alleged fear of love.

The man has played a gay con man (Six Degrees of Separation), one of the most charismatic figures of the 20th century (Ali), an action hero (Enemy of the State, Independence Day) and now a romantic lead. If he chooses to I have no doubt he could become president. That's how much magnetism he has. But somewhere along the way, one hopes he will make some choices to do some edgier material. I mean, c'mon, he could have played this role high on Benadryl.

That said, there are some things to recommend here, especially Smith's underrated value as a straight man. When you have the energy Smith has it must be difficult to play second fiddle to another actor, but that is what Smith does in his scenes with Kevin James. I found the dancing scene hilarious, and while obvious credit goes to James, it is Smith's generosity that allows this scene to work. Also interesting are the observations about modern dating that reminded me of an updated Alfie.

The biggest problem with the story is that we are supposed to believe Hitch, who caught his college girlfriend kissing another dude, has sworn off love because of the incident. This is fine, although it seemed tacked on, but I never see how this transformed him into a guy who will only help men who truly love their prospective mates. How did he learn all these tricks? And how did he make the transformation from geek to stud? But more importantly, if he's sworn off love for himself, but not for others, then why does he try to woo Eva Mendes' character? It's not for a booty call, since he went to all the trouble of an elaborate proposal and an even more elaborate date.

When it comes down to it, not enough time is invested in these two seemingly perfect people to understand what their problems are. Thus their relationship never seems to be in doubt, a requisite for creating drama.

The real story here is James' characters wooing of Allegra. It is sweet, makes a lovely point about being yourself and would have been paid off nicely had the editors not been in such a hurry to rush their moments to get back to Smith and Mendes. All the pieces were here to write a movie on the level of Jerry Maguire, the film they reference here, but they didn't all fit together.

But don't worry, the dance sequence at the end will make it worth it and show why Will Smith will someday rule us all.

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