Hitch review by Mike Long

Over the past century, there have been many advances in gender equality, but not so much in the world of movies. I'm not talking about what goes on behind the camera, I'm referring to the tastes of the audience. The idea of a "chick flick" is alive and well today, while there are still plenty of action and horror films which appeal primarily to males. Sure, there are men and women who enjoy the movies that fall outside of their typical demographic, but there aren't many movies which have appeals across the board. Hitch, the latest Will Smith vehicle attempts to change that trend by being a chick flick which throws in a dose of male perspective.

Smith stars in Hitch as the title character, Alex "Hitch" Hitchens, a "date doctor" who trains men on how to approach a woman and have a successful date. Hitch enjoys his job and loves to see men successfully accomplish their goals of going out with the woman of their dreams, but due to a bad experience in college, Hitch himself is somewhat sullied on the idea of love. As the story unfolds, the film introduces two seemingly separate storylines. Hitch's latest case is Albert Brennaman (Kevin James), an accountant who is very attracted to one of his clients, the beautiful heiress Allegra Cole (Amber Valletta). Hitch has his doubts about Albert's chances, but if his clients desires seem sincere, Hitch supports them.

In the mean time, Hitch meets gossip columnist Sara Melas (Eva Mendes) and is instantly attracted to this strong woman. However, the date doctor can't seem to follow his own advice in pursuing Sara. Things get even more complicated when Sara's job leads her to investigate the relationship between the accountant and the heiress. Will Hitch be able to balance his private life and his job? And more importantly, can Hitch believe in love again?

If you are a true movie fan, then there's been at least one time in your life when you've complained about the redundancy of the Hollywood movie factory and cried out for something new and original. Well, Hitch ain't that movie. But, most movie fans will also admit that occasionally a formulaic movie can work solely on an entertainment level. Hitch does qualify as that film.

The story is very clichéd and free from surprises and (although the filmmakers claim that they used unique locations) the New York location feels very old hat. Yet, Hitch is able to throw in just enough freshness to be worth a look. Clearly Will Smith is the star of this film and his undeniable charm really takes the movie up a notch. Yes, there are scenes where he launches into his annoying stammer speak and he gets in a “Hell, no” (it must be in his contract), but for the most part, he is very likable and this really helps to draw the character into the film. The idea of a male matchmaker is a good one and the fact that he blows his big date is a clever concept. And the fact that the matchmaker doesn’t really believe in love makes things all the more interesting. Think of him as a very cynical cupid.

The odd thing about Hitch is that it’s essentially two movies in one for most of the film. We have the movie with Albert and Allegra and the story with Hitch and Sara. And while the Hitch character is certainly interesting, I was much more interested in the story of the underdog Albert pursuing the rich and beautiful Allegra. This is an example of how Hitch may appeal to both men and women while dividing them as well. Most men have daydreamed about going out with that perfect, unobtainable woman and the story of Albert following his dream, while having a definite fairy-tale quality, felt very real to me. Also, this section works due to Kevin James, who is able to do broad comedy (the dance lesson scene is truly funny and much more than what was shown in the trailer), but also brings a real sincerity to the role. On the other hand, I felt that Eva Mendes was the real weak link in Hitch. Her character came across as all sass and I couldn’t help but feel that, if this were real life, Hitch could do better. Director Andy Tennant has handled the fairy-tale material much better in the past, in the criminally under-rated Ever After, but he does bring a spark to Hitch. This movie will never pass for great art, but it’s certainly worth a rental and it’s that rare date film upon which men and women can agree.

Hitch gets set up with DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has come to DVD in two separate releases, one full-frame and the other widescreen. For the purposes of this review, only the widescreen version was screened. The film has been letterboxed at 2.40:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. For a recent film which was a hit, the transfer on the Hitch DVD leaves much to be desired. The image is fairly sharp, but it’s not very clear. There is a noticeable haze to the image, and at times, it looks as if it were being projected onto textured wallpaper. The colors are OK, but the picture takes on a washed-out quality at times. The appearance may not bother the casual viewer, but the defects really jumped out at me (and my TV is supposed to automatically correct imperfections like this!). The DVD’s Dolby Digital 5.1 track fares much better than the video presentation, although it is standard for this type of film. The dialogue is clear and audible throughout the film and there is no hissing or distortion. The music sounds very good and there is some nice usage of surround sound during crowd or street scenes.

The Hitch DVD contains a varied selection of extras. The DVD contains two “Deleted Scenes”, one of which features an interesting subplot which was dropped from the movie. We also get the opening of the film presented with the original score, which was changed in favor of other music. The DVD offers five featurettes. “Dance Steps Made Easy” (8 minutes) focuses on the dance lesson scene and contains a lot of funny behind-the-scenes footage. The shooting locations are discussed in “Love in New York” (7 minutes). Costume designer Marlene Stewart discusses the look of the film in “Hitch Style” (6 minutes). We get the advice of many real life “(The) Dating Experts” in an 11-minute segment which contains clips from the film. On February 22, 2005, Will Smith attempted to set a world record for the most public appearances by a film star in a 12-hour period, and “Will Smith’s Red Carpet Race” (4 minutes) documents this. The extras are rounded out by a “Gag Reel” (4 minutes) and a music video by Amerie for the song “1 Thing”.

6 out of 10 Jackasses

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