Wednesday 9 July 2014

Movie Review: Hitch (2005)

A romantic comedy designed to broaden the appeal of star Will Smith, Hitch offers the typical genre ingredients on its way to the genre-mandated conclusion, but benefits from a reasonably original premise and a strong secondary story.

In New York City, Alex "Hitch" Hitchens (Smith) is a relationship consultant, helping hapless guys sharpen their act to stand a better chance of romantically wooing the ladies. His latest client is accident-prone accountant Albert Brennaman (Kevin James), who is desperate to try and gain the attention of wealthy society girl Allegra Cole (Amber Valletta).

With Hitch's guidance, Albert makes surprising progress with Allegra. Meantime, Hitch meets Sara Melas (Eva Mendes), a newspaper gossip columnist who writes about people like Allegra for a living. Hitch begins to fall for Sara, and tries to keep his profession a secret. But when his name is wrongly associated with a relationship-gone-wrong involving Sara's friend Casey (Julie Ann Emery), the very public fallout threatens not only Sara's romance with Hitch but also Allegra's blossoming relationship with Albert.

Hitch mixes some juvenile antics (Hitch suffers a puffed-up face as a result of a bout of food poisoning) with more adult situations, and generally ambles along at a reasonably cheerful pace. Director Andy Tennant captures a sanitized New York at its best, and delivers a competent version of boys-meet-girls, boys-like-girls, boys-lose-girls, and boys-scramble-to-win-the-girls back.

Hitch does not try to escape the genre's hardwired predictability and relies on star charisma to provide the fresh spin. Smith does not disappoint as he rounds out his urban edge, his suave, confident and yet tender portrayal of Hitch infusing the film with a likeable core. While the central multi-racial relationship gives the film a cosmopolitan gloss, its the parallel story of Albert and Allegra that provides Hitch with some welcome depth. Kevin James and Amber Valletta play a strong and funny second fiddle to Will Smith and Eva Mendes.

James deploys his brand of doofus humour to good effect, and his dance moves, as demonstrated to an incredulous Hitch, are the film's highlight. The clumsy and overweight Albert and the rich and sophisticated Allegra make for an odd couple, and credit goes to the Kevin Bisch screenplay for making their relationship almost believable.

Pleasant without ever threatening to be stellar, Hitch is harmlessly genial entertainment.

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