Former Prince, a TV King combine to make a winning ‘Hitch’
Here’s a novelty: A romantic comedy that offers the perfect balance of both while neither insulting the intelligence nor the morals of its primary intended audience. A safe, fun date movie for those old enough to date and young enough to still appreciate the complexities and risks involved in the process.
They call Alex “Hitch” Hitchens — played with smooth confidence by Will Smith — the “date doctor.” His goal for his male clients — most of them nerdy, clumsy, unlucky-in-love types — is to teach them how to win the girl in three dates.
This just in: Takes preparation, thought, planning and courage, something many young men today seem ill-equipped (or disinclined) to do. That’s why this film not only tickles the funny bone at all the right moments, but is also superbly relevant.
Will Smith has proven himself to be a capable action hero type (“I Robot,” “Men In Black”), and even a gifted dramatic actor (“Ali”), but here he deftly and naturally turns in a comic performance of noteworthy depth and subtly.
Having been rebuffed in his college days, Hitch has taken his lessons learned and honed his craft in an effort to help lovable losers like Albert (TV’s “King of Queens” Kevin James in his affable big screen debut). Some of “Hitch’s” simplest but most joyous scenes involve the two in their coach/student hijinks, as Hitch tries to swing some swerve into Albert’s hopelessly Caucasian clumsiness.
Importantly, Albert is portrayed as winningly goofy not stupid — this is as much a credit to James’s acting skills as it is some solid direction by Andy Tennant (“Ever After,” “Sweet Home Alabama”). Unfortunately, many of the funniest bits are disclosed in the preview trailers, but not enough is given away to ruin the film.
Things get complicated when, in the course of helping Albert make his moves on out-of-his-league celebrity beauty Allegra Cole (Amber Valletta), “Hitch” becomes ensnared himself by gossip columnist Sara (Eva Mendes of “Stuck on You” and “2 Fast 2 Furious”).
Sometimes the general principles that woo a woman — proper body language, good listening skills, and an willingness to NOT try too hard — are not enough to crack the fairer sex. Hitch learns this for himself when he meets his match in the savvy Sara.
We know things will work out for them, but there are enough surprises to go along with a strident attempt to avoid the trite clich? that “Hitch” succeeds on nearly every level. It nearly runs out of gas in its final moments, but that can be forgiven in a film that makes the romantic comedy seem like a fresh idea.
Shot in and around the Hudson River, “Hitch” evokes a sunny Manhattan vibe that most movies have yet to capture in the wake of 9/11.
If you messed up and took your Valentine to the mostly dreadful “Wedding Date,” here’s your shot at redemption. “Hitch” up your sweetheart to the very fresh former Prince of Bel-Air’s engaging comedy. Dr. Laura would approve.
PG-13 for sexual situations and profanity.