Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 26, 2014)
Sometimes I think it’s best to only see movies at home so the reactions of others don’t influence me. A favorite example of this occurred when I took in Home Alone back in 1990, as the audience went so wild that I grew to loathe the movie. I couldn’t understand why they found the cheap slapstick to be so incredibly amusing, but I wouldn’t have been so hard on it if I’d not encountered their hysterics.
The same issue may have affected my opinion of 2005’s Hitch, though I can’t blame a large group of viewers for my disenchantment. I saw Hitch as part of a third date. The woman in question really liked the movie. It made her laugh almost constantly, but that wasn’t what got to me.
Instead, I became annoyed because whenever anything even vaguely outrageous occurred - usually various slapstick accidents and miscalculations - she’d exclaim “oh no!” By about the tenth “oh no”, I really started to dislike the woman. By about the 50th, I wanted to shoot myself in the head.
There was no fourth date.
Even without my annoying date by my side, I can’t say I cared a whole lot for Hitch, as my second screening didn’t make it look any better. The film introduces us to Alex “Hitch” Hitchins (Will Smith), a Manhattan “date doctor”. He helps guys live up to their potential and overcome their own foibles to connect with the women of their dreams. Hitch doesn’t muster much romantic hope for himself, though, as he remains jaded due to past experiences.
That starts to change when he meets similarly cynical gossip reporter Sara Melas (Eva Mendes). Hitch intrigues her when he approaches her at a bar and he soon romances her. However, the usually-slick “date doctor” makes a number of miscues that create more of a challenge for himself.
In the meantime, Hitch works with Albert Brennaman (Kevin James), a tubby introverted accountant with his eye on the prize: wealthy socialite babe Allegra Cole (Amber Valetta). She seems absolutely out of Albert’s league, but Hitch works with his client to get him in the door. The movie follows the dual romances along with the inevitable pitfalls that pop up along the way.
Although my date disagreed, I found Hitch to be tedious and to lack much entertainment value. This shouldn’t have been the case. On the surface, the flick should have been a winner.
For one, it includes a strong cast, and Hitch is the kind of part that Smith should be able to play in his sleep. Smith is one of the world’s most naturally charismatic people, and Hitch seems like a perfect part for him.
Unfortunately, I think Smith did play Hitch in his sleep. The actor lacks much verve in the role, and he leaves little impression. Maybe Smith wanted to give the part more depth and not just to be the superficial charmer, but it doesn’t work. Hitch doesn’t do much to intrigue or amuse us, as he seems like a bland nobody.
Smith and Mendes look great together, as both are very attractive people. That doesn’t result in much chemistry, unfortunately, and their romantic scenes fail to ignite.
It’s hard to take the parts between James and Valetta all that seriously either, just because it always remains tough to accept her with him. That’s not because she’s so much more attractive; honestly, she’s not that stunning, and he’s a decent looking guy once you get past his weight.
The problem stems from James’ goofy portrayal of Albert. He consistently plays the role in a cartoony manner that accentuates the comedy but undercuts the drama and romance. The sight of his pudgy puss as he puckers up for a kiss made it awfully difficult to believe any woman would do anything other than laugh or run away in fear.
When I read reviews of Hitch, I saw that James got a lot of praise for his performance, but honestly, I can’t figure out why. Maybe I’m just not a fan of his loose-limbed physical comedy, but his work here leaves me cold. I continually expected to find some hilarity that never came.
It doesn’t help that at 118 minutes, Hitch is awfully long for a romantic comedy. I’d expect a movie like this to clock in at maybe 100 minutes, and this one wears out its welcome well before it ends.
The flabby direction makes the running time seem even longer than it is. Director Andy Tennant never reigns in the action or creates a concise narrative.
Instead, the movie rambles and meanders its way from start to finish. There’s no real through-line on display, as the tale jumps from one focus to another with little logic or clarity. This means it plods when it should zip.
Speaking of the plot, Hitch suffers from too many illogical conceits, and the main offender comes from the wholly unnecessary character called Vance Munson (Jeffrey Donovan). Early in the flick, he meets with Hitch because he wants the date doctor to help him score with a certain chick. An insulted Hitch refuses, as he’s not there just to get guys into women’s pants; he’s there to facilitate love.
This comes back to haunt Hitch. Vance indeed beds his target (Julie Ann Emery) who - in a shocking coincidence - turns out to be Sara’s best friend! As she traces the legendary “date doctor” to our lead character, she assumes Hitch is nothing more than a glorified pimp.
In truth, the movie should have named Vance “Plot Device”, for that’s all he is - and he’s an illogical plot device too. A guy as arrogant as Vance wouldn’t care enough to pursue someone like Casey that heartily, and he also seems extremely unlikely to admit that he needs the help of someone like Hitch; he’s totally full of himself and would never seek the advice of others.
So why is Vance in the movie? In the expository vein, he lets Hitch tell us that he’s not a glorified pimp, and in a plot sense, he acts to prompt the problems that occur in the third act.
However, the movie doesn’t need him. Sara easily could have found out about Hitch’s job via other means, and both she and Allegra didn’t need for their respective lovers to seem so sleazy to make the climactic conflicts work.
But Hitch is filled with all sorts of clumsiness that it doesn’t require. A more competent film would have left threads like Vance on the cutting room floor, whereas Hitch keeps too much dross. This means Hitch winds up as an excessively long movie with little charm or humor to maintain our attention.