Hitch (2005) ***
Directed by Andy Tennant. Written by Kevin Bisch. Photography, Andrews Dunn. Music, George Fenton. Produced by James Lassiter, Will Smith, Teddy Zee. Cast: Will Smith, Eva Mendes, Kevin James, Amber Valletta, Julie Ann Emery. Distributed by Columbia Pictures. 116 minutes Rated PG 13.
“Hitch” ought to be a copyrighted term reserved for Alfred Hitchcock. This Hitch is a romantic comedy whose title reminds me that Alfred the Great, while famous for his thrillers and such, was also a sophisticated master of romance that outclassed just about everybody. Here the title makes me think of Alfred, and while the current movie is fine, it is no classic. But it is worth seeing and enjoying.
Hitch is the diminutive of Alex Hitchens who is played with great brio by Will Smith. Smith is excellent. So are all the other actors in major parts (Mendes, James, Valletta) in this contrived yet most amusing love-comedy that was cannily released at Valentine’s Day time.
It is set in Manhattan, where Hitch is a self-appointed Date Doctor, that is a consultant-advisor to men, mostly nebbishy, who want to land the woman of their dreams. Hitch is good at it, although (or because?) we see a flashback of his younger self failing in such an endeavor.
Currently, his main client is the gauche, mumbling, stumbling, timid, overweight Albert (Kevin James) an accountant in a big company which, among other activities, handles the fortune of Allegra Cole (Amber Valletta,) a beautiful, slim and chic heiress. Albert gets Allegra’s attention at a financial meeting when milquetoast Albert goes against his superiors’ advice to Allegra (don’t ask) and resigns. Natch, he falls in love with her, and needs help, badly. He needs Hitch’s schooling, badly, very badly. Hitch’s training of the man is hilarious.
At the same time, Hitch, meets and is fascinated by gorgeous Sara, the gossip columnist of a New York tabloid. So the movie becomes two-pronged with the addition of a Doctor Heal Thyself element that puts Hitch in the film’s epicenter.
With a great deal of humor, ingenuity and sympathy, matters develop – in a (sometimes too) fragmented way. Slapstick however is held down to a minimum, as in a sequence in which Hitch turns out to be allergic to a restaurant, his face swells, and there’s a hunt for Benadryl. (This fits the medicinal name Allegra which, in fact is a nice Hispanic name meaning The Joyful One. Some touches in the movie are obvious, others are esoteric!)
Not to worry at any point. Both romances materialize and are nicely served by funny and/or original details. Of course clichés are unavoidable, several of them contained in worn-out, sententious bits in Hitch’s advice. Example: “You don’t know where you are going until you know where you’ve been.” Ouch! But such platitudes do not spoil the overall movie which overall keeps its characters and its audiences going. The clichés are overwhelmed by the wisdom of Hitch such as his very comical “how to kiss” demonstration to Albert, among other advice.
There are clever sequences and/or touches between both the Allegra/Albert and the Sara/Hitch couples--- with more and more varied concentration on the latter (a good idea,) and variety by often using more monologue than dialogue. Ms. Valletta looks delicious and Ms. Mendes – a U.S. born Cuban-American-- is spectacular.