“The cure for the common man.”
Director: Andy Tennant
Cast: Will Smith, Eva Mendes, Kevin James
Synopsis: While helping his latest client woo the fine lady of his dreams, a professional “date doctor” finds that his game doesn’t quite work on the gossip columnist with whom he’s smitten.
Remember when you first met the love of your life? Those first few dates when you were so pre-occupied with being on your best behaviour that you failed to realise that they were too? You didn’t need anyone to tell you how to behave, but then you probably weren’t as ambitious as lowly corporate accountant, Albert (Kevin James – 50 First Dates). He’s trying to win the attention of Allegra Cole (Amber Valletta), the beautiful heiress whose account is managed by his employers, but is all too aware of his shortcomings, so employs the services of slick ‘date doctor’ Alex ‘Hitch’ Hitchens (Will Smith – Men in Black, Bad Boys II) to improve his chances. In the movie’s opening scene, Hitch helpfully explains his ethos: “No matter what, no matter when, no matter who,” he informs the camera Alfie-style, “any man has a chance to sweep any woman off her feet… he just needs the right broom.” It might sound like the non-specific message of hope that an internet con man might use to sell bottles of pheromones, but because Hitch is played by cinema’s reigning nice guy Will Smith we can be relatively sure that his sincerity is genuine.
While Hitch is moulding Albert into some kind of semblance of a man who doesn’t spill everything he eats down his shirt he finds himself drawn into the romantic pursuit of Sara (Eva Mendes – 2 Fast 2 Furious), a reporter for a celebrity magazine whose hot looks means she’s heard every chat-up line under the sun and developed a healthily scepticism about men in general as a result. However, when circumstances contrive to have Sara discover that Hitch knows the new mystery man in Allegra’s life she suddenly becomes interested in getting to know him better.
The fact that Hitch was released in Valentine’s week tells you all you need to know about the audience it was aiming for, but it’s actually a film which caters more to the wish-fulfilment fantasies of lonely, ineligible men than the romantic ones of women. Most of us are all too aware of the realities of life: like the global distribution of wealth, good-looks are shared amongst a tiny minority of the population who have a tendency to stick together when it comes to dating. But by somehow managing to prevent Valletta from looking too unattainably glamorous – she looks more like the girl next door than the heiress to a multi-million fortune – Hitch just about keeps itself grounded enough to remain believable (within its own make-believe world, that is).
The success of the movie depends more on the likability of its stars than the storyline, and, again, it’s the men who score in this department. Smith can do slick charm without thinking, while James has that lost puppy vulnerability that makes it impossible to dislike him. He also does a hilarious dance session (complete with commentary) which easily provides the film’s funniest moment. The women, however, are a bit more problematic. Allegra lacks any kind of character, while Sara tends to take the guarded mistrust of men a little too far, and finds it hard to admit the mistakes she makes, regardless of how glaring they might be. So, while the movie finishes with a happy (if horribly contrived) ending, you suspect that neither relationship has much chance of succeeding in the long run.
(Reviewed 31st January 2016)
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