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Innovation is overrated. Like most of you, I really appreciate when a film merely meets my expectations by extending its trailers into an easily digested narrative flow.
Enter Hitch, the year’s frontrunner in the easy-runner, suppository award for excellence in mediocrity.
Those of you who have somehow avoided the media saturation of Will Smith’s most recent film will not be privy to the pleasure of seeing 10-second clips mysteriously stretched into a full-length romantic comedy. Frankly you people need to be watching more television.
Hitch is about Alex "Hitch" Hitchens (Will Smith), a “date doctor” who tutors men on the finer points of hooking up. Teaching an odd mix of pop psychology and one-liners, Hitch is a master of the science of love, a Kinsey lite, if you will, but the film avoids sleazy sexual innuendos by treating sex and love as distinctly different things.
Hitch’s clients are nerdy well-meaning guys, losers who’ve vented all their libidinal frustrations into the “date doctor” rather than following their regular modus operatus of stalking unapproachable woman. Hitch responds by sharing invaluable bits of wisdom that sound like they have come to us via Opera Winfrey.
“You are a fluid concept,” Hitch tells a client who complains that his date shoes aren’t something he would normally wear.  You see, men are from Mars and women are mostly superficial twits – according to the logic of this film. Despite this rather ugly underpinning, Hitch is a harmless film that practically runs itself.
Hitch is an expert on the female animal who knows how to push buttons. He understands body language and can translate the most casual and unconscious movement into language that even the average male gorilla can understand. But when he finds himself dealing with the real thing – his own true love – he becomes as tongue-tied and silly as the rest of us.
Hitch’s current assignment is Albert (Kevin James), a pudgy, warm-hearted shmuck who has fallen for the most impossible woman in New York City, Allegra Cole (Amber Valletta). Allegra is a beautiful business mogul and Albert is, well, Kevin James from the horrible King of Queens TV show, an unassuming common sort of guy.
While he’s helping Albert woo Allegra, Hitch meets the woman of his dreams, Sara Melas (Eva Mendes), who happens to be a gossip columnist. The master-dating strategist unexpectedly blunders through their first couple of dates and eventually Sara discovers what he actually does for a living.
This inoffensive prepackaged film is a Pavlovian experiment of a high order, and I found myself joining the other drones when my favorite trailer eventually unraveled on the big screen. How many times had we all seen Will Smith’s allergic reaction to seafood in trailers and advertisements, and yet when it appeared in the film we all guffawed like insane people.
The cast is certainly game and this helps the film get out of its own way. Smith can win over almost any audience with his easy-going charm and elasticized facial characteristics. He pushes through this film like a killer teddy bear, destroying puny heartstrings and leaving no angel un-touched. Smith forces us to forgive even the terrible, awful-bad soundtrack.
Hitch is eerily like an old episode of Love Boat somehow, but this isn’t a problem if you’ve been preprogrammed to chuckle along with laugh tracks and love reruns like the rest of us.

 

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