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"Hitch" Movie Review

Mr. July Tries to Spread a Little Love a Few Months Early

By

Will Smith Kevin James Hitch

Will Smith and Kevin James in "Hitch"

© Sony Pictures
Moviegoers looking for a sweet Valentine’s Day treat can’t do much better than hitching a ride on Smith’s latest starring vehicle. Smith’s onscreen charm makes “Hitch” work – though not without a few hiccups along the way.

Will Smith hopes February will be as kind to him as July has been. In this romantic comedy directed by Andy Tennant (“Sweet Home Alabama”), Smith stars as Alex ‘Hitch’ Hitchens, a guy who knows how to make a good first impression and who’s willing to teach men the ropes – for a price. As New York’s ‘date doctor,” Hitch helps hopeless men hook up with the women of their dreams. Setting up a geeky dude seeking love from a beautiful stranger is more than a job for Hitch, it’s an adventure.

Kevin James co-stars as bumbling accountant Albert Brennaman. Albert’s pretty much useless around women. He either fades into the background, makes a mess of himself, or stutters his way through a simple hello. In other words, he’s not a ladies man by any stretch of the imagination. Brennaman calls upon the services of Hitch to help him land a woman who is so far out of his league they're not even playing the same sport. The object of Brennaman’s affection is the glamorous celebrity, Allegra Cole (Amber Valletta).

Allegra Cole, millionaire, sought after hottie, doesn’t know Albert exists. Hitch’s job: to take a guy with zero self-esteem and launch him into the limelight as Allegra’s supportive pal and would-be boyfriend.

While working out the love lives of others, Hitch finds a little romance himself as he becomes attracted to gossip columnist, Sara Melas (Eva Mendes), who detests dating and is married to her job. An expert at choreographing all the right moves, Hitch isn’t as lucky in romance as are his clients after utilizing his services. Mucking up date after date, including one where he turns into SpongeBob after an allergic reaction to food, Hitch nonetheless finds himself a victim of the dangerous condition known as ‘falling in love.’ But Sara, ever on the job, has set her sights on figuring out why Allegra is out on the town with Albert. Sara also wants to remove the mask and expose the ‘date doctor’ once and for all. However exposing either Albert or the date doctor could spell an end to Hitch’s romance plans.

Will Smith plays it just right. The smiles aren’t forced, the jokes come easy, and the scenes between Smith and James and Smith and Mendes – even the ones that feel too set-up – work because Smith’s so charismatic you can’t help but smile and go along with it. He’s got such a presence onscreen that you follow him over the movie’s rough spots just because he’s such an affable leading man.

Kevin James (“King of Queens”) steals scene after scene. Playing an average, everyday Joe, James makes you really pull for this poor guy as he pursues a woman he shouldn't have a snowball’s chance in hell of dating. While James is great opposite his onscreen love interest, it’s the scenes with Smith where the movie really hits its stride. In fact, James and Smith are actually the onscreen couple to watch. In the film’s most memorable scene, James shows off his dance moves to a bemused Smith (how he ever kept a straight face is beyond me). It’s almost worth the price of admission just to witness James getting his groove on.

The women of “Hitch” don’t fare as well, but they’re really only called upon to look pretty and provide James and Smith with a reason for teaming up. Supermodel/actress Amber Valletta is asked to look like she’s hounded by the media and unlucky in love. She gets one out of two right, which isn’t bad. Eva Mendes is fine but really doesn’t make much of an impression as the hard-nosed gossip columnist.

Andy Tennant can handle romantic comedies and it’s due to his easy-going, audience-friendly style that “Hitch” doesn’t lose steam after the plot’s set up. Tennant, Will Smith and Kevin James have managed to deliver a decent comedy out of a one-note idea. “Hitch” winds up being a fun romp through the dating scene with all its quirks and foibles laid out on display.

GRADE: B

“Hitch” was directed by Andy Tennant and is rated PG-13 for language and some strong sexual references.

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