Smith plays the titular hero, a guy who's so smooth he turned it into a career as a "date doctor," helping a succession of schlubby but good-hearted guys make it into the arms of gorgeous women who otherwise wouldn't have looked twice at them. But although he's like a consultant for romance, Hitch doesn't use his powers to find true love for himself, leaving marriage and lasting relationships for his clients. This leaves him with plenty of energy to devote to his newest project: Albert (Kevin James, very funny), a nervous, fumble-thumbed accountant desperately in love with one of his clients, the ridiculously wealthy and beautiful heiress Allegra (Amber Valletta, who comes closer to approximating an actual actress in each film she's in) and needs help getting her to notice him. A few quick lessons from Hitch, which include a nicely-played Cyrano scene (and a dancing tutorial that contains most of the film's few true laughs), and Albert begins to blossom into a confident, impressive romantic who looks sure to make Allegra fall for him. It's light stuff, to be sure, but often played with a disarmingly sweet touch by both James and Valletta and enjoyable enough. But then the film feels the need to add in a whole other storyline, and that's where the problems start.
What stands in for the remainder of the plot has Hitch finally coming across the woman who could make him rethink his no-tolerance policy on love -the problem being that she's such a detestable creation it's hard to believe he'd want to buy her a drink, let alone sweep her off her feet. The woman, Sara (Eva Mendes), is a gossip columnist for a New York Post-ish tabloid, all sour puss and dull, no-fun workaholism (odd character traits given her profession, but never mind). But for some reason he's fascinated, and after a few tidily snappy exchanges, Hitch digs deep into his bag of tricks in order to make Sara his, a campaign of wooing that seems to involve about as much planning as the Normandy landing - and looks to be about as much fun.
For reasons too torturously convoluted to bother going into, a misunderstanding causes a rift, at which point the base nature of Sara's job comes to bear and threatens to scupper everyone's chance at love. A film more sure of itself would have dispatched this impediment to happiness with quick dispatch, but the makers of Hitch - a film that overstays its welcome by a good half-hour - seem to be the only filmmakers in Hollywood to not know how to put together a fast happy ending, preferring instead to pile on the false climaxes and unnecessary plot wrinkles.
To return to the main reason most people will see this film - Will Smith - he acquits himself just fine, and none of the stink of Hitch need be on him. Smith is effortlessly likeable, and not in that desperately oversmiling and overjoking manner he can often fall back on, but relaxed, intelligently and confidently so, a true gentleman. Which makes it all the more painful to see him saddled with this unsightly mess of a romantic comedy that can't even come up with a worthwhile recipient for all his attention.
The DVD includes the usual deleted scenes, gag reel, and featurettes -- but the real must-see are Kevin Smith's dance outtakes, eight minutes of flailing that really should have been included in the (mildly) underrated film. You'll be doing the Slooooow Thriller at your next Christmas party, I guarantee.
Goin' my way?
Run time: 118 mins
In Theaters: Friday 11th February 2005
Box Office USA: $177.6M
Box Office Worldwide: $368.1M
Distributed by: Sony Pictures
Production compaines: Overbrook Entertainment, Columbia Pictures Corporation
Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 69%
Fresh: 124 Rotten: 56
IMDB: 6.7 / 10
Director: Andy Tennant
Screenwriter: Kevin Bisch
Starring: Will Smith as Alex 'Hitch' Hitchens, Eva Mendes as Sara Melas, Kevin James as Albert Brennaman, Amber Valletta as Allegra Cole, Julie Ann Emery as Casey Sedgewick, Adam Arkin as Max, Robinne Lee as Cressida Baylor, Ryan Cross as Charles Wellington, Michael Rapaport as Ben, Jeffrey Donovan as Vance, Ato Essandoh as Tanis, Nathan Lee Graham as Geoff, Paula Patton as Mandy, Philip Bosco as Mr. O'Brian, Navia Nguyen as Mika, Matt Malloy as Pete
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