Will Smith has become such a superstar, it’s difficult to upstage his larger-thanlife persona. But Kevin James does just that in the romantic comedy Hitch: The Cure For the Common Man.
The trailers and television ads for Hitch just weren’t all that encouraging. They prominently featured James doing the tediously overdone “fat guy dancing badly” gag. That was the sure tip off that Hitch was a really bad movie. Why else would you reduce yourself by going for the all-too-easy laugh?
So often, a movie uses all its good jokes in the trailer, in an effort to lure you to the movie. You get to the movie and find that you’ve already seen every single funny moment in the trailer. Hitch is the rare opposite — the movie that has a limp trailer and then surprises you with a good movie. James is a gleeful crackup opposite Smith, and although Hitch hits snags by going a half-hour longer than it has any right to, and by leaving James out of an inordinate amount of scenes, it’s still a romantic and a comedic success. James plays Albert, a nerdy accountant with a debilitating crush on celebrity/heiress Allegra Cole (Amber Valletta). Albert hires Alex Hitchens (Smith), a smooth operator who works anonymously as a “date doctor” to lovelorn New Yorkers to get Allegra’s attention.
While coaching Albert on the art of wooing, Hitch meets his dream girl — a sharply intelligent and painfully beautiful gossip columnist. Her job is to follow and document Allegra Cole’s personal life. She’s also on to an even bigger story that she’s chasing with fervor: an anonymous guy who calls himself the “date doctor.”
It’s unclear whether Hitch, in his odd chosen profession, is a slimeball or a hero. Hitch is all about setting up slightly dishonest scenarios — but it’s all for the noble purpose of helping good guys get the attention of girls who wouldn’t normally notice them.
The movie bluntly and awkwardly tries to position him as a shiny hero with a self congratulatory sense of morals. When a man with less than honorable intentions approaches Hitch for help, Hitch turns on him with a speech about protecting women from “men like you,” and gets a trifle violent with him for good measure.
The male matchmaker himself isn’t the hero of Hitch. Neither is his love interest, although Mendes flows through the movie with glossy supermodel refinement. She’s not funny, but that’s because the show’s writer (Kevin Bisch) shied away from allowing her comic material.
Kevin James and Amber Valetta, with their agitated and hesitant romance, beam with sweet mismatched chemistry. James hurtles about with stupidin- love confusion — and it’s so funny, Smith should probably be taken off top billing and replaced with James.
Grade: B Currently playing. Rated PG-13 for profanity and comic violence. Running time: 115 minutes.
New on DVD: Taxi: Queen Latifah’s self-esteem must have taken a hit somewhere between the hood and the Academy Awards. I don’t know how else to explain this talented actress’ appearance in this movie. Less celebrated actor Jimmy Fallon and model Gisele Bunchen probably didn’t know any better, and it’s too bad their debut had to be so mediocre. Fallon plays his cop character as an 11-year-old, and Bundchen doesn’t really play any character at all.
Ann-Margaret as Fallon’s drunken mother is brief but hilarious. And the movie’s straightfaced idiocy doesn’t completely eclipse Latifah’s charisma, the bombastic car-chases, or the adequate amount of funny lines. Overall, it was more entertaining than it deserved to be. And I admit it: I like cars. Therefore, I was unable to hate this really.