Thursday, June 02, 2005

Movie Review: "Hitch"

Starring Will Smith, Eva Mendes, Kevin James, Amber Valletta and Adam Arkin
Directed by Andy Tennant

Displaying a natural comfort in the genre, it seems surprising that "Hitch" marks Will Smith's first foray into romantic comedy. Factoring in Smith's broad appeal to moviegoers, and getting a cushy release date right around Valentine's Day, it should be no surprise that "Hitch" turned into a box-office hit. It just would have been nice if this hit carried more of an impact.
The movie is certainly amiable and amusing, making good use of its New York exteriors. But like many movies in this genre, the story is a bit too predictable and contains one too many plot contrivances.
Smith portrays Alex "Hitch" Hitchens, a "date doctor" who helps men find love – yet is still searching for true love of his own. That possibility comes in the form of Sara (Eva Mendes), a newspaper gossip columnist with whom he becomes smitten. This leads to a tentative relationship between the two, resulting in memorably terrible dates.
While the movie is quick to establish Smith's character as a smooth operator with the ladies, when it comes to dating Sara, Hitch can seemingly do no right. Still, the two become closer in spite of their near debacles – until a story emerges, involving one of Hitch's clients (Kevin James), that threatens to ruin his business.
To be sure, Smith and Mendes definitely make an attractive screen pairing, yet some of the twists thrown their way in the relationship seem like misunderstandings that take place simply because the script says they should. Case in point: One character that appears in the film basically exists for no other purpose than to hold information that drives a wedge between Hitch and Sara.
While the script has some failings, one area the film gets right is the unusual, yet effective pairing of Smith and James. In fact, Smith has a more interesting and comfortable chemistry in the film with James than he does with Mendes. Their scenes together are among the best in the film, as James shows he's capable of holding his own on the big screen, away from his "The King of Queens" sitcom on CBS.
The story takes a bit longer to wrap up than it should, but generates enough laughs along the way to maintain audience interest. Yet don't go in expecting much in the way of surprises, unless you consider James dancing in four (count 'em, four) scenes qualifies.
If nothing else, Smith demonstrates with "Hitch" that he can also do romantic comedies, having already made his mark in music, as well as action and dramatic movies. But then again, that accomplishment should be no surprise either.
Grade: B
(Rated PG-13 for language and some strong sexual references.)

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