How can one improve on the most formulaic of genres? The romantic comedy probably suffers more from formula than any other genre on the silver screen. How can Hollywood spice it up and make the romantic comedy fresh again? Pardon the pun but how about adding the Fresh Prince himself, Will Smith? Well that's a start.
The next ingredient is – why not make part of the film appealing to guys as well as girls? This probably won't work for all guys but it will work for some.
The very last ingredient – don't cast a Julia Roberts, Ashley Judd, Jennifer Aniston or Kate Hudson. Instead, make the guy the centre of the story.
Well there you have what makes Hitch a really different romantic comedy.
Hitch stars Will Smith as Alex Hitchens, a date doctor for the hopelessly romantic male in the heart of New York City. Hitch, as his friends call him, prides himself on helping romantically-challenged males have a chance with the women of their dreams. As Hitch puts it, we only have one chance and one chance only with that special someone, and if we screw it up we will lose her.
Hitch's latest client is accountant Albert (Kevin James) who is desperately in love with one of his firm's top clients. She is Allegra Cole (Amber Valletta), a celebrity and way, way out of Albert's league. But with a little help from Hitch's magic, maybe his dream can come true.
Investigating the case of the "urban legend" known as the date doctor, gossip columnist Sara (Eva Mendes) seems to be hot on his trail when she discovers who Allegra Cole's latest date is, a nobody named Albert. How is this possible? Is she in over her head? Will the ties that bind rip these people apart or will love find a way?
Okay, I am a romantic at heart and I have had a lot of problems with the romantic comedy. They always seem to star some lovely starlet down on her luck until the buffed man of her dreams sweeps her off her feet. In those tiresome films, like How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days or Someone Like You, it's always the supporting characters that are the most charming and believable. That isn't the case with Hitch.
Hitch's central character, played by Will Smith, is sort of the "Ferris Bueller"> of the dating world and he is ultra cool. Also, like Ferris Bueller, he is vulnerable and approachable. It's that dynamic character development that makes this film so appealing. We love this guy.
What is also great about the film is the hilarious, yet real approaches to the characters around Hitch. Kevin James is like a lost puppy dog and how can you not cheer for him? Eva Mendes has surprisingly toned down her sex appeal and went for a more grounded approach to her character. That is really fresh and makes her character even more believable.
What is uncanny about my "Ferris Bueller" reference to Hitch is that the film's director Andy Tennant also worked quite heavily on the Ferris Bueller TV series. But Tennant is probably best known for directing Sweet Home Alabama.
I really liked Hitch a lot more than I thought I would because I had given up on the romantic comedy at least five years ago. Don't get me wrong, there have been some funny and delightful ones, but nothing that really took a new approach to the genre.
The only pratfalls I had with Hitch were in the film's third act which seems to be littered with romantic comedy clichés. For how new the approach was to the genre, I for once wanted to see a surprise resolution. But it was such a great new look at a tired genre.
So go to this movie for Will Smith but stay for Kevin James. It's a lot of fun and such a surprise in a weak start to the 2005 movie season. (4 out of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.