Film — Hitch (PG-13)

Hitch (PG-13)

by Amy Diaz

Will Smith is unshakably affable in the unshakably affable romantic comedy Hitch, a movie that might not be all that good but is certainly very well-behaved.

While I watched this movie, I tried to hone in on exactly what is the difference between Hitch and a movie like the recently released The Wedding Date. Both are labeled as romantic comedy. Both feature the same basic plot — initial attraction, barrier to love, happy resolution. Both star actors who have at least some comic abilities. But Hitch, while mushy and uneven, was relatively pain-free to sit through. The Wedding Date was actively unlikable and uncomfortable, like being forced to eat dinner with a couple you don’t like and then watching them fight. You might not care about their dispute, but you really don’t like having to witness it.

As Alexander “Hitch” Hitchens, Will Smith is smile-and-handshake likeable from beginning to end. Even when the story gets soggy with unnecessary and unbelievable turmoil, he stays genuinely nice throughout.

And what’s not to like, really? Hitch helps the all-thumbs with two-left-feet men of New York City get beyond their spazziness long enough to date the seemingly unattainable girls of their dreams. As we come on the scene, his latest client is Albert (Kevin James), a chubby, slightly bumbling, nerdy accountant who is deeply in love with one of his clients, a rich and beautiful celeb named Allegra Cole (Amber Valletta). Hitch’s job is essentially to show off the best possible Albert. He gets him to wax his back, make a big romantic gesture and tone down some truly bad dancing.

Though this might all sound a little Queer Eye for the Desperate Guy, Hitch wants us to know that deep down his intentions are honorable. He helps these guys for a fee but only if they’re in love. When a stock-trading shark asks for help in banging a girl, Hitch rather firmly declines.

But this one encounter and the publicity given to Allegra’s seemingly illogical match help to raise the attention of a newspaper gossip columnist named Sara (Eva Mendes). She has no use for love and is in relentless pursuit of the backstory on both Albert and the date doctor, as Hitch’s legend named him. Naturally, it is around this time that she just happens to meet Hitch and finds herself attracted by his suave game — both the parts that work (his amazingly smooth approach at a nightclub) and the parts that don’t (on their first date, he brings up Sara’s family’s deep-dark scandal; on their second date, his face puffs up like mishappen parade float due to a food allergy). What will happen when Sara finds out who Hitch really is? And will her investigation put Albert’s slowly budding relationship in jeopardy as well?

“Oh, this is the big discovery scene,” I thought while watching this movie. “That means we’re about 15 minutes from the end.” But while I did a fairly good job predicting both the outcome and the approximate arrival time of same, the movie didn’t have me begging for the credits. I even remember laughing out loud on occasion, though at what I have no idea. The best scenes involve Smith and James (Will Smith has always done well as the cooler half of a buddy-duo), playing the stumbly nature of James off the slightly over-confident charm of Smith. Even in scenes where James is wooing Allegra alone, the humor is based on what we know Smith’s reaction would be to James’ bursts of dorkiness.

Even the Mendes/Smith pairing works. They might not have a passion that burns like a bonfire but their chemistry does throw off the occasional spark. Even when we get to the movie’s final 20 or so minutes (of crisis, catharsis, resolution — each predictably introduced and played out), we don’t hang out too long in the more uncomfortable scenes. During the lulls, the movie walks briskly to the next scene where Smith can be self-effacing or otherwise charming.

Hitch is not my idea of romantic movie (see Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind if you want a movie to say something about love). But it is a nice movie, a thoughtful  movie, one that is polite, friendly and in no way discomforting.

- Amy Diaz

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