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Hitch not the hottest of dates

By Lady Liberty
web posted February 14, 2005


** out of ****

HitchEvery year, there's a movie or two released with Valentine's Day and dating couples in mind. This year, that movie is apparently Hitch. Although the few critical reviews of Hitch I've seen haven't been particularly flattering, critics also predicted the movie would do well at least on its opening weekend. The critics have proved right on both counts (the most recent box office numbers I've seen show Hitch leading over its nearest competitor by a significant margin).

Alex "Hitch" Hitchens (Will Smith) is a unique kind of consultant. Colloquially known as the "Date Doctor," he works with men to help them get that all important first date with the girl of their dreams. No matter how improbable a match may be, Hitch shows shear genius in getting a guy's foot in the door. He then coaches the men through the all-important first three dates. Hitch tells people that he believes any man can sweep any woman off her feet if only he has "the right broom." All of his optimism and ideas don't seem to apply to him, however. His best friend Ben (Michael Rappaport) tells Hitch that settling down with just one woman is a good thing, but Hitch doesn't buy it. A painful break-up in his own past is apparently largely to blame.

His personal life notwithstanding, Hitch's many successes lead him to attempt what he himself considers his "masterpiece:" Getting portly accountant Albert Brennaman (Kevin James) a date with beautiful heiress Allegra Cole (Amber Valletta). Hitch has his work cut out for him where the shy and clumsy Albert is concerned, but Albert is determined and Hitch does his formidable best. Meanwhile, Hitch meets a beautiful woman himself. Her name is Sara Melas (Eva Mendes), and she's a gossip columnist for a popular New York tabloid. Never at a loss for advice where Albert is concerned, Hitch finds himself seeing the best laid plans for his own relationship go awry over and over again.

It's clear that Hitch's personal and professional lives won't remain separate for long in the face of several important details. One of them is Sara's job, with a boss (Max Trundle, played by Adam Arkin) who continually demands the most incendiary stories and the inescapable fact that Allegra Cole is very much fodder for the gossip magazines. The other involves a date gone very wrong for Sara's best friend and a man who solicited help from Hitch.

Will Smith is one of the most reliably entertaining actors working today. He's proved his action star chops time and again, but has always maintained some humor in even his most heroic onscreen moments. Hitch brings him completely back to the comedic concentration forged in his early television career. And Smith is quite good in the movie. Kevin James is a very funny physical comedian and a capable actor. I suspect that, with good scripts, he'll have a very successful career in the movies (too bad for James that Hitch isn't a movie that provides a good script). Unfortunately, others in the cast aren't so gifted. Eva Mendes is pretty enough, but I didn't see any real chemistry between her and Smith and her acting is only okay. Amber Valletta might be good, but it's hard to tell in this stereotypical role, while Adam Arkin plays much the same irascible character he plays in other movies.

Director Andy Tennat has the romantic comedy Sweet Home Alabama on his résumé, and if that kind of formulaic film is his niche, then Hitch fits right in (though Sweet Home Alabama is the better movie of the two). The direction and editing aren't bad; they're just very ordinary. And Hitch needed something substantially more than that to rise above its own mediocrity.

The biggest problem that Hitch has is a script that has funny moments, but not enough of them; that sometimes goes purely for the cheap laugh as opposed to clever or more mature humor; and which is unfailingly entirely predictable.The friend I saw the movie with agreed that Hitch was mildly amusing, but she found the storyline contrived at best (as did I); we both knew early on just how the plot and the side stories would all resolve. Hitch is a reasonably good first date movie (particularly for teens), but it otherwise didn't do much for either of us.

POLITICAL NOTES: The ruthlessness of the tabloid gossip industry is only vaguely touched upon here when there was a real opportunity to say something about the exaggerations and outright fabrications in which too many in the media (tabloid and the ostensibly more respectable mainstream alike) engage today. There were several instances in the movie where it might have been interesting to discuss the media, its ethics (or lack thereof), and its effects, but the opportunities weren't taken.

FAMILY SUITABILITY: Hitch is rated PG-13 for "language and some strong sexual references." Given the storyline and the lack of interest small children would have in such a plot, the rating is probably just about right. As a first date movie, Hitch is both sweet and unthreatening, and it requires only a minimum of attention from the moviegoer. As anything more, however, Hitch falls woefully short.

Lady Liberty is a graphic designer and pro-freedom activist currently residing in the Midwest. More of her writings and other political and educational information is available on her web site, Lady Liberty's Constitution Clearing House, at http://www.ladylibrty.com. E-mail Lady Liberty at ladylibrty@ladylibrty.com.


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