If we’ve learned anything of the “Queer-Eye”-ified world of reality television, it’s that the common man is dirty, poorly dressed and couldn’t make a peanut-butter sandwich if you spotted him the bread. Taking a swift glance around my own dank dwelling, well, perhaps they’re right. How can one secure true love if one’s unmentionables are dangling precipitously from one’s lamp? In the pre-metrosexual era, that answer may have been “pay for it.” But, as luck would have it, our current makeover-obsessed culture has thankfully readied our acceptance – in cinematic form, of course – of the urban date doctor, HITCH, to cure the love ills of the quiet, good-hearted, late-blooming, slightly unkempt, modern male.
It is important to note for the purposes of the film, that Alex Hitchens (Will Smith) will only help a guy if he is truly, madly and deeply in love with a women; boorishly wanting to “bang” a member of the opposite sex does not qualify you for his services. Due to his rather funny past as a wallflower and victim of cruel heartbreak, Hitch fully arms his clients – teaching them to dance, getting their backs waxed - with the confidence to engage in a dying art: romancing the girl of their dreams. Hitch’s latest project is projected as his most difficult: an overweight, asthma-stricken nebbish, Albert Brennaman (Kevin James), a junior accountant who has fallen head-over-heals for one of his clients, Allegra Cole (Amber Valleta), a beautiful celebrity socialite. While helping out Albert, Hitch meets and falls for a hard-working gossip columnist Sara Melas (Eva Mendes) whose initial resistance and verbal return-serve capabilities pierce his veneer of suave intelligence and eternal bachelorhood. That Sara trails Allegra’s evening escapades for good copy is no coincidence; indeed it is the collision of these two conflicts that ably fill-out the rest of the movie’s narrative.
Director Andy Tennant (SWEET HOME ALABAMA, ANNA AND THE KING) does a yeoman’s job in keeping the proceedings light and fun, easing, at times, his characters and their dialogue into a playfully quick rat-tat-tat. Mr. Smith is quite charming without being too cutesy in the title role and Mr. James easily sheds his “King Of Queens” skin – almost outshining his co-star - for a very funny, physically intense comedic turn. The two actors find an excellent on-screen chemistry that works well. First time screenwriter Kevin Bisch’s script features some really witty repartee and steers its story away from the murky, maudlin depths of melodrama or sentimentality.
Besides the considerable debt the movie owes to the very now “new you!” pop-culture landscape, HITCH, is truly a movie of its own time. I’m pretty sure that ‘“Google-ing” someone’s name’ – among other contemporary references – will sound downright archaic and laughable to anyone who watches the film on HD-DVD-On-Demand in 2025. The movie hinges upon the majority of its audience projecting onto – rather than identifying with – its attractive thirty-something main characters: their lavish New York apartments, restaurants and tastes are highly sophisticated, urbane and affluent. HITCH is also a film whose foundation is built on several accepted stereotypes, both cinematic and more broadly social. It doesn’t take a genius to hypothesize – from the film or my description above – the religious background of the Albert Brennaman character. It’s also trite, at this point, to show that white men can’t dance and, to a lesser extant, aren’t generally as hip as their African-American brethren. Lastly, it’s a by-now embedded cinematic double standard that a career-driven woman – in this case the Sara Melas character – cannot possibly have time for love, while all of Michael Douglas’s high-powered executive characters have more than enough time for both. Indeed, it is her aggressive careerism that is partially responsible for the break in her relationship with Hitch. And yes, I know, this is just a movie.
Romantic comedies, more so than other genres, are by definition predictable: boy meets girl; boy falls for girl; boy loses girl; boy gets girl back; they live happily ever after, the end. Of the specimen’s better examples, of which HITCH is one, the best compliment you could pay it is that you’ll enjoy the breezy ride: it is a rare date movie that women will love and the men who take them won’t hate. While I am certainly no date doctor, I feel more than self-assured in prescribing it as is the perfect Valentine’s Day cure.
*** out of *****