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I walked into Hitch assuming it would be a Will Smith mug-fest, his character being portrayed as cooler than cool and only flummoxed by another generic Hollywood beauty. (And still I went.) Instead, I found the character of Hitch to be a surprisingly witty and charming, ethical and professional guy, and the film of Hitch to be endearing and charming. Hitch himself is humble, cool, funny, and (except for his insanely groovy apartment and unlimited resources) totally accessible.

It was especially cute and refreshing to show the expository parade of men who were genuinely smitten with their ladies, and vulnerable; in only a few minutes, you empathize with and root for them. They show up, now and again, throughout the rest of the movie too, investments that pay off. Wisely, the filmmakers strayed clear of any “get laid in 3 easy steps” stink, which cynically would be expected of such a film. Not a puerile drop in the bucket.

Hitch’s love interest is a sassy, relationship-wary, self-assured career gal, outspoken and brassy without quite treading into rude. My male companion hated her almost instantly. When I asked him why, he said she was too cynical, and assumes the worst of men. No female in modern America can’t relate to the walls this attractive woman has erected to keep herself from being hurt, so it surprised me that such a universal feeling (though expressed more directly by Eva Mendes) would read to a male as repellent. Guys, if you don’t like it, don’t make us that way by being jerks. Will Smith didn’t seem repelled, and his mistakes pile up. (Many of his errors would be very forgivable to any reasonable person, so I was unsure what all the fuss was about, but he played it all very charmingly.) The lessons he learns from these mistakes are invaluable and I hope the men of the world take heed. (My male companion excepted; he’s pretty evolved.)

This is not at all what I left Hitch thinking about. Kevin James, as the main focis of Hitch’s latest gig, steals the movie out from under Will Smith like Judi Dench in a cheerleader comedy. His character is a sweet, shy, endearing fellow, with an impossible crush/love – you don’t really care if it’s true love or just a crush, he believes it is love, and so we believe. He’s absolutely the heart and soul of the film – the character we most care about and relate to. His anxieties and failures, his triumphs and how he interacts with Hitch are all just superb. James’ whole journey through this film is adorable and nail-bitingly tense. Will Smith may be on the poster, and he may be the catalyst, but Kevin James is the star of this movie.

Everyone in the film has great chemistry, whether friends or love interests, and that sparks makes the whole engine hum. It’s a winner.

MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 2/11/05
Time in minutes 115
Director Andy Tennant
Studio Columbia Pictures