Director    Andy Tennant
Starring    Will Smith, Eva Mendes, Kevin James
3 stars

2nd April 2005

Seeing as he made his name as the happy-go-lucky Fresh Prince, it's perhaps rather odd that we don't see Will Smith starring in more romantic comedies like Hitch. He's done the bio thing with Ali, the action thing with Bad Boys and I, Robot and even the serious, 'I'm an actor' thing with Six Degrees of Separation. It's a given that Smith is one of the more charismatic characters working out of Hollywood today, although Hitch isn't the best vehicle for a man with as much natural charm as he has - it's a tired formula, made watchable by some charming characters and the natural beauty of my new wife, Eva Mendes. She'll be so happy when I tell her.

Smith is Alex 'Hitch' Hitchens, the self-titled Date Doctor, who'll give you invaluable advice on ensnaring a member of the opposite sex, whether you're lard-arsed, hideously ugly or hooked on some sort of science fiction television program - truly, those that are beyond normal relationship help. Enter the luscious Sara (Eva Mendes), a gossip columnist who catches Hitch's eye, but seems to be impervious to his advances - he's like Superman without his powers when she's around. Meanwhile, Hitch's latest project Albert is attempting to woo the lovely Allegra (Amber Valletta), a former model who seems way above his station. Will they get it together? Will Hitch overcome his dip in confidence? This isn't complicated stuff, people. If you're surprised by the people who get it together at the end, then you're probably actually physically retarded, and for that I'm sorry. This is a date movie, it's not Closer - everyone involved is irritatingly, cloyingly nice.

Smith is predictably charming in the title role, oozing style and grace as he flits between women like you and I change dirty boxers. The cheesy one-liners are thankfully kept to a minimum (despite the heavy gorgonzola stench of the storyline) and the Fresh Prince-style gurning is suppressed for the most part, Smith playing Hitch with enough humility to stop him from becoming a cartoon-like character. Trouble is, this is seriously lightweight stuff and doesn't particularly challenge anyone on board, or indeed, anyone in the audience. Mendes, for all her stunning looks and heart-melting smiles, isn't called upon to do anything more than be slightly intrigued by Hitch's antics, and the supposed clash between her professional and personal relationships never materialises to a noticeable degree. However, there's laughs to be had with Albert the geek, whose ample frame is tasked with carrying the slapstick portion of the movie. I can't be the only one who gets a kick out of fat people embarrassing themselves, can I? Dance, chubby, dance!

I'm fully aware that this is a romantic comedy, and therefore doesn't abide by the rules which we live our lives by, but Hitch is seriously detached from reality, and suffers for it. How can we be expected to believe a man as smooth as Hitch, with all his advice and know-how, would fall apart when he meets - gasp - a really beautiful girl like Mendes? And exactly which planet does a big fat speccy accountant manage to get in the pants of a supermodel like Valletta? Planet Girth? Nah, it's fantastical stuff I'm afraid; I wouldn't want any fat nerds to get their hopes up and start talking to attractive women, it'll only end in tears and mournful LiveJournal updates.

I suppose whether or not you'll enjoy Hitch depends on how cynical you are. If you, like me, will sit there snorting loudly whenever the fat guy who's low on confidence manages to get a date with the hot chick, then you'll probably come out just as cold as you went in - us heartless types should stick together. On the other hand, should you be looking for a harmless, inoffensive film to take the little lady to, then Hitch should just about contain enough funnies to please the both of you. Hmm. Because deep down inside me there's a fat little nerd waiting to fall in love with a supermodel, then perhaps I'll be generous. And besides, I'll always remember Hitch as the movie in which I met my lovely bride. The invitation is in the post, I swear.

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