Every now and then it's good to let go and
just believe in romance. Guys, it's even better to do it
around Valentine's Day. Luckily this year we have Hitch,
a light romantic comedy that still has a bit of edge with
Will Smith and perhaps the beginnings of a great comedy
team with Smith and Kevin James.
To give in to this movie, you do have to
get over a few things. Misunderstandings arise only because
the story needs misunderstandings to make it work. Motivations
are slight. Smith has to play that being utterly burned
at love, and thus refusing to play at it himself, has turned
him into an expert, the so-called "Date Doctor." Countering
Hitch comes gossip columnist Sara (Eva Mendes), also refusing
to enter the dating pool because of a childhood trauma that
really should have no bearing on the issue. Hitch needs
to meet his match, so any excuse to make that Sara will
Only Albert (James) seems to be following
a natural course. A big-time junior accountant with blue
collar habits, Albert has fallen in love from a distance
with New York City's most popular heiress. Anyone can identify
No, it's not Paris Hilton, but the heiress,
Allegra Cole, is played by a former supermodel, Amber Valleta.
If you can buy that after dating a succession of jetsetting
playboys, Allegra would fall into a shy (and chaste) courtship
with a guy that can't eat a single meal without staining
his shirt, then you are ready for Hitch. It's not
quite screwball comedy, but it comes close at times. Director
Andy Tennant keeps things light and breezy, and unlike a
lot of "comedy" directors churning out product, he actually
knows how to stage a gag. Even when a bit pushes the boundaries
of logic, Tennant pulls it off and moves on. He cut his
teeth on some of the most visually inventive sitcoms of
the early nineties, and if I have any disappointment with
his film work, it's that he never lets himself go into full-scale
lunacy. But maybe that's a good thing.
Part of what makes Hitch work is
the clever screenplay by Kevin Bisch. Again, it's occasionally
short on logic, but the dialogue always pops until the few
moments it gets dragged down into exposition. (Adam Arkin,
as Sara's editor, has the unfortunate duty of delivering
moral messages without getting anything actually fun to
The four main actors, however, should get
praise. Can this really be the first time the ultra-charismatic
Smith has played straight up romantic comedy? It feels like
a genre he was born to do. Or, if necessary, at least keep
teaming him with James. Every scene between the two hits
the mark, and if they don't work together again, it will
be a shame. They have far more natural give and take then
Smith has had in his teamings with more intense actors like
Tommy Lee Jones.
As the objects of affection, Mendes and
Valletta strike different but charming notes. Mendes has
been stuck in crap project after crap project, but hinted
that she could be funny in Stuck On You. With Hitch,
she has the makings of a real movie star, at turns knowing
and vulnerable. When sparring with Smith, she more than
holds her own while also making it completely believable
when she realizes she's fallen for him. In a slightly more
unbelievable role, Valletta, too, makes you believe in love.
Relegated to a lot of shots of quietly appraising James,
she shows the melting of Allegra while never letting go
of the character's strength.
The film does waste a few character actors.
For some reason, Michael Rapaport gets high billing to appear
in an early scene, be established as pivotal to Hitch's
life, and then never be seen again. Screenwriter Bisch goes
to even more trouble to establish a supporting cast for
Sara, including wacky officemates and soulful best friend,
but they disappear for huge stretches, until such as they
might serve for a fine coincidence.
Overall, though, those things end up being
minor quibbles. By the time the final credits roll, Hitch
has delivered a surprisingly good time. Yes, it's light,
it's frothy (yeah, it's a gross word for guys, but it's
true) and fun. It also has just the right amount of goofiness
to keep both genders entertained this Valentine weekend.
So go. We won't tell.