The trailers for Hitch will no doubt leave some men thinking “great, another movie where every woman will be saying ‘now why can’t I get a guy like that!?'” Sometimes I think it’s a vast Hollywood conspiracy, where the common man just doesn’t measure up. Women love to be romanced, but they often get swept off their feet by Hollywood fantasy. The teachings of Alex “Hitch” Hitchens (Smith) are not commonplace, but guys, don’t completely tune out or turn on those Ipod headphones you’re hiding with a stocking cap and turtleneck. You may just pick something up.
Hitch is the ultimate bachelor and has women figured out romantically, or so he thinks. He makes a living by giving the common man tips and tricks in order to get the woman who would otherwise not give him the time of day. He works by referral only, and judging by the looks of his apartment, he’s doing quite well. If only I had the skills.
One day Hitch is summoned by Albert Brennaman (James), a shy, but successful, office worker who simply isn’t good with women. He lusts for Allegra Cole (Valletta), the daughter of the owner of his company. She is a celebrity and would obviously never consider dating him, but with the help of Hitch, Albert soon has some moves of his own.
Meanwhile, Hitch is finding himself a bit smitten with Sara Melas (Mendes), a gossip columnist for a local New York rag. She is the stereotypical ultra-independent woman who coldly drops any man who tries to hit on her. She has her life in order and cannot be bothered with men, or can she?
Hitch is a glossy comedy on the outside, but as the screenplay reveals itself more and more we soon learn that it has an inner core of life lessons. People are not always who we assume they are, and Hitch, who clearly thinks he knows everything about winning women over, finds himself in the challenge of a lifetime with Sara.
The first half of the film is a winner many times over. Hitch’s methods and and overall coolness are established early on, and we see how he turns the run-of-the-mill guy into a romance king. All of this is very entertaining and well-written, while at the same time not coming across as completely unbelievable.
Much of Hitch flips back and forth between the stories of Hitch/Sara and Albert/Allegra. Hitch quickly learns that Sara does not fit the mold of woman whom he has figured out, and Allegra soon learns that the everyday guy may not be so bad after all.
The second half puts the major laughs on moratorium and instead turns melodramatic. Hitch and Sara both have scenes that are completely out of character and the knee jerk during the film’s climax simply falls flat. We all know from the get-go how this is going to turn out, but the film ends up biting off more than it can chew.
Let’s take a tally here. We have two relationships (Hitch/Sara and Albert/Allegra), a subplot involving Sara’s need to capture celebrities in the naughty for her job, and a subplot involving a slime ball that becomes involved with Sara’s best friend, Casey (Emery). With a disjointed second half, the screenplay simply cannot handle all of this action in an effective manner. It keeps weighing itself down with new nuggets instead of resolving what it has already established.
The major error comes when the screenplay decides to all but abandon the Albert/Allegra fracus in favor of Hitch’s slow discovery of the challenging Sara. Kevin James as klutzy Albert is where virtually every laugh comes from in the first half, and I found myself wanting to see Albert tripping over and breaking things instead of Hitch constantly explaining himself to a very difficult and sometimes unlikable woman in the second half.
The performances are all spot on. Will Smith is, to my best guess, just playing himself here. We all know he’s a smooth operator, and it is actually nice to see him give another genre a shot. He brings a nice depth to the character of Hitch and he makes us like him from the opening frames. Mission accomplished. The show-stealer, however, is Kevin James. This guy was born to play a character like Albert, and James’ physical comedy skills are on full display. He plays the perfect underdog and wins everyone over with his shyness and puppy dog eyes. If only he wasn’t so underused in the second half. Eva Mendes is solid as the independent Sara by bringing some nice dynamics to her character (the scene at Ellis Island tells us a lot about her early on). Supermodel Amber Valletta does well with the semi-one dimensional character of Allegra, who one would assume is a prissy, cranky woman. But don’t be so quick to judge.
Director Andy Tennant makes excellent use of metropolitan New York locales and gives the film a vibrant, exciting feel. First-time screenwriter Kevin Bisch has made an overall impressive debut, but needs to keep things more consolidated in his future scripts. Hitch comes close to falling apart in its second half and particularly close to its ending, but Bisch’s sense of wit and clever situations saves it.
Is Hitch the new “perfect” romantic comedy? Nah, but it will get the job done for Valentine’s Day weekend moviegoers. It has likable characters and a story that will keep even the grumpiest of romantics amused. It’s no Love Actually, but it is a film that we can all take a little something away from. That alone is worthy of a recommendation, especially with the river of sewage that has been flowing through theaters for the past month.
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Length: 115 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for language and some strong sexual references.
Theatrical Release: February 11, 2005
Directed by: Andy Tennant
Written by: Kevin Bisch
Cast: Will Smith, Eva Mendes, Kevin James, Amber Valletta, Julie Ann Emery, Robinne Lee