Review: “Hitch”

Watching “Hitch” is like going on a date with a really great guy/girl but the venues and food on the night out itself are decidedly plain – as a result you had a good time but it is far from a magical evening and not a good way to start a relationship. Will Smith with his magnetic charisma and easy-going charm lifts the decidedly tired material of “Hitch” into a palatable and passable rom-com that’s so lightweight and fluffy it disappears from one’s mind like that. In other words for the pre-Valentine’s Day weekend it’s slotted in, it makes for a perfect date movie.

“Hitch” tries to come off as a safe “How to Guide” style movie for average men to work out how to get the beautiful women they’re infatuated with to notice and not reject them. Smith, as the advice-dispensing guru, plays the role with far more saccharine and scruples than any person in the same job in real life would have, and the action always stays in ultra-safe territory never threatening to become realistic or too down on itself.

Formulaic? You’d better believe it. The picture kangaroo hops with its pacing, revving up one minute, cooling down the next and swapping between multiple disorganised storylines to such a degree that most credibility is quickly lost. There’s too much talking, not enough actual doing and when Smith’s character finally gets some development towards the film’s end, for the first time that I can recall the actor actually stumbles with the character – or more likely with the unwieldly way ‘Hitch’ is handled in Kevin Bisch’s run of the mill screenplay.

Nevertheless for much of its runtime, Smith is the strong centerpiece here and the support from the likes of Kevin James as an overweight client after a rich heiress and Eva Mendes as a reclusive career-minded journo never seeking love til Will falls for her, help make much of their screen time enjoyable. Mendes in particular shares good chemistry with Smith and she at last displays an easy charm missing from her lackluster previous work. Small roles from Adam Arkin as Mendes’ boss and Jeffrey Donovan as a rich prick trying to hire Hitch are decent.

Like Director Andy Tennant’s last film, “Sweet Home Alabama”, he once again has taken a solid talented lead (and a few strong supporting players) and squashed them into a dull and somewhat hokey vehicle that’s far from a perfect fit. All try to make it work, as does Tennant who knows how to get the best out of his various locales (he makes the Hudson seem like an almost picturesque place in this) and the assorted crew with great costumes and apartment sets.

Yet the sweetness rings hollow. Contemporary relationships and dating is so much more infinitely complex than it used to be and yet the various bits of advice here (ie. getting to certain levels by certain ‘date’ numbers) seems almost antiquated. Some may find the generalisations made about romance and being in relationships almost insulting. It’s great to see Will do this genre, it’s a shame it wasn’t better suited to his talent.