Wednesday, July 08, 2009

“I mean, I’ve waited my whole life to feel this miserable.”

On the surface, 2005’s Hitch, directed by Andy Tennant, sounds like a standard run-of-the mill Romantic Comedy. Guy & Girl meet, verbally spar, then get together. I know I looked at it way back when, but in the ensuing years, and my current quest to get a better look at the nuts & bolts of cinematic storytelling, back we go.

It’s a Romantic Comedy with two plots. The main plot centers around a man who has become very successful with women in general and now hires himself out as a consultant to men who are hopeless cases so that they don’t make the same mistakes that he’s made. He ends up falling for a woman who is so bitter and disillusioned about relationships. The second plot is about his latest client, a hopeless schlub of an accountant who is in love with one of the wealthiest, most glamorous women in New York. Our hero takes up this fellow’s request because he likes the challenge of the idea.

Alex “Hitch” Hitchens: Our hero is the perpetually charismatic Will Smith. No, seriously. Always charismatic in this film, which is good, since he’s got the most screen time. Hitch is cocky, funny, well dressed, successful and basically an idealized male. Sure, he’s kind of a marty-stu since he’s pretty much always right, but its kind of handled all right. He’s not all powerful, he just knows a lot about how men & women interact with each other, knowledge that he paid a painful price for in the past. Now operating as an underground consultant for men who have hopeless cases, he drifts amiably through New York as an urban legend. Which is a fantastic premise for a character. He’s the suave kind of badass in this film. Of course, things start to unravel when he finally starts falling in love with a woman himself…

Sara Melas: Eva Mendes plays a very attractive, but very standoffish gossip columnist. Her major defining trait is her complete dislike of relationships and distrust of men. The movie puts her and Hitch onto a collision course, and their first meeting is great; he plays it cool and leaves after introducing himself and analyzing her character. He persists eventually, and the two end up hitting it off, but a minor character arc interrupts their relationship, and she does something that pretty much destroys Hitch’s career. Normally, this would be a deal breaker, but its not, which kind of took me out of the movie near the end.

Albert Brennaman: Kevin James is our hopeless case. A chubby, asthmatic, shy accountant who is in love with the wealthy socialite Allegra Cole. His whole initial purpose is to be a “challenge client” to Hitch, a guy so out of his normal league that he would stand no chance without help. As Hitch works his magic on Albert, a relationship with Allegra does seem to become possible, but the third act twist threatens everything that Albert’s come so far to achieve. The bulk of the movie’s comedy comes from Hitch coaching Albert, and James pulls in a pretty good performance as the nervous nelly of an accountant while still making him likable.

Allegra Cole: The object of Albert’s affections, Allegra is a fabulously wealthy, and, as Albert discovers, a really nice gal who rather likes his goofy charms. Their relationship gets off the ground rather well, until the third act twist, but then gets back on track.

Casey: Sara’s best friend and the subject of a minor plotline that leads to the third act twist. She’s the kind of girl that the guys Hitch coaches seek out, except she always seems to run into assholes that take advantage of her. Which is a shame, since she is fiiiiine.

Vance Munson: The asshole type of guy that Hitch does not want getting the girls. Has a chance encounter with Hitch that leads to the third act twist. Also happens to be played by the guy from Burn Notice.

Visuals (Direction/Effects)
The framing, use of steadi cam, and lighting are all very well done. The way New York is presented, particularly at night, makes it nice and inviting. Its obvious a professional is behind the camera and in the editing room. The only problem I had was that some of the scenes seemed like gratuitous advertising. For example, the whole jet ski scene felt a little too long.

Kevin Bisch, the writer, does a very good job of blending physical comedy with dialog comedy. There are genuinely amusing moments, the occasional serious moments, and the strongest characterization comes together for Hitch himself. I did however, feel that the movie felt a little too long at 118 minutes. The inevitable split between Hitch and Sara felt like just that: too inevitable. It’s a Romantic Comedy, so you know its coming, because its always coming. This then leads to the third act twist which, when a happy ending is required by the nature of the movie, can feel a little forced (as it does here). It doesn’t ruin the movie, but it does hurt it.

The soundtrack is very, very good. Mixing very familiar soul songs with hip-hop, club music, etc leads to an urbane, dare I say “hip” feel to the proceedings.

Hitch is certainly not a waste of your viewing time. Polished and well made, it delivers some fun scenes and watching Will Smith as a “date doctor” doesn’t get old. Still, by the end of the film, it will feel a tad too long. Overall though, yeah, I’d recommend it.

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