Film/TV » Film Features

Isn't It Romantic (Obvious)?

Hitch has got relationship problems.



Meet Alex Hitchens, aka "Hitch," aka Will Smith. He's an urban legend, not unlike giant sewer goldfish or killer Pop Rocks or the man with the hook hand. But unlike those myths designed to frighten, warn, or spook, Hitch is benevolent; he's got your hookup. He's the Date Doctor. No ads, no listings, no publicity. All his clients are referrals. Are you pudgy? Nerdy? Too short? Too bald? Do you sweat too much in places everyone can see? Hitch can help you play it cool. Hitch can help get your foot in the door. Hitch can get you results. Striking out with the ladies? The doctor is in.

Hitch's latest client is Albert (TV's The King of Queens Kevin James). Albert, an accountant, falls into the pudgy, nerdy category and needs Hitch's help in attaining the unattainable: Allegra Cole (Amber Valletta), a glamorous heiress not unlike, say, Paris Hilton. Albert gets his own foot in the door when, as a member of her board of advisers, he loudly quits rather than give her poor advice. Now all he needs is Hitch to teach him how to groom, dance, and court.

There's trouble afoot, and trouble wears heels. Sara (Eva Mendes) is a premier gossip columnist for the New York Standard, and she's out to get the scoop on the latest doings of Allegra. When the heiress is spotted around town with the dumpy accountant, there must be a story behind it, and Sara's investigation suggests that the Date Doctor may actually be real. The hunt is on. But while she's searching for the elusive erotician, she happens to meet a charming, attractive, successful suitor by the name of -- yep -- Alex Hitchens. So, while both Hitch and Sara are working behind the scenes dealing with Albert and Allegra, respectively, they also are falling for each other in the line of duty. Both are romantically guarded, though, and while Sara's icy veneer begins to melt, Hitch can't help but lose his legendary cool. How will this possibly end?!

Okay, opinion time. Does Bo recommend Hitch for the romantic comedy that it is? Okay, sure. Fine. Go see it. It fills all the requisites of its genre while being cute and funny and occasionally clever. Can Will Smith do romantic comedy? Sure, no problem. Can Kevin James transcend television and succeed in movies as a comic second banana? Yeah -- he's great. So, indiscriminant viewers everywhere who don't care about pacing or plot or character development or style, you've got the green light. Enjoy. Take a date.

However, for the rest of you, consider the following: Hitch isn't very good. It fails on a number of levels. Romantic comedies must follow some simple guidelines if they are to be liked and successful. One of them is that the union of the couple in question must be endorsed by the audience as appropriate and attractive. That's the problem. Sara, when the going gets tough, is a stark raving bitch. Never mind that she is a tabloid reporter preying like a cockroach on the social droppings of American celebrity. When she suspects that the Date Doctor she's heard so much about has advised a sleazeball who hurts her friend, Sara goes psycho-ballistic and irredeemably mucks up the lives of not only Hitch but also Allegra and Albert. She ruins Hitch's anonymous career, embarrasses Allegra, and fouls up Albert's chance at love. And she uses her position at the newspaper to do it publicly and devastatingly. After that, we are supposed to hope that she and Hitch can patch up their differences and make up and, yes, they do. (Sorry to all those moviegoers who object to my revealing the obvious, shockless conclusion that this, like all romantic comedies before it, ends well for its protagonists.) But geez!

Aside from all that, Hitch is likable enough, though first-time screenwriter Kevin Bisch and schmaltz-director Andy Tennant (Sweet Home Alabama, Fools Rush In) seem to have cobbled this together at the last minute. The editing is cruddy, and seemingly important characters like Hitch's best pal (Michael Rapaport) and Sara's pushy editor (Adam Arkin) disappear inexplicably, while other minor characters appear pointlessly as though they've been around all along.

There's a lesson somewhere in Hitch about just being yourself and love triumphing over all (yawn), but it gets lost somewhere in the nonchemistry between Smith and the likable but not very good Mendes. Better luck next time, Will.

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