The ads for "Hitch", despite likely having a sizable role in the film's major success, just made the picture look unappealing - another wacky, slapsticky low-brow comedy. The picture itself is much better than the promotion made it out to be - it's nothing groundbreaking, to be sure, but it's a light, zippy little comedy that casts along nicely thanks to Will Smith's charming lead effort.
Smith stars as Alex Hitchens, a guy who becomes a "date doctor", largely thanks to a relationship during his college years that ended badly, despite the fact that he loved the woman. He doesn't lock himself into a relationship, but he's gained fame for isolating the faults that people have when it comes to presenting themselves to women and reading signals.
His latest "case" is one of his biggest jobs - Albert (Kevin James), a nervous, overweight accountant who is desperate to try and romance celebrity Allegra Cole (Amber Valetta). Through a surprising performance in the boardroom where Allegra has come to discuss an investment, she notices him. The only thing left is trying to convince Albert not to freak out whenever he has to try and have a conversation with her.
Soon enough, Hitch has some problems of his own. He falls for gossip columnist Sara (Eva Mendes) in a bar, and although he tries his best, nothing just seems to go right on their dates together. For a while, "Hitch" manages to follow both stories pretty smoothly, but there's a point where enough is a bit much: the picture runs at two hours and could have been cut down by about 15-20 minutes, which would have helped the pacing considerably.
The performances in the film are certainly above average, as Smith dials down his performance a bit, and his delivery seems noticably improved as a result. Kevin James also offers a terrific performance as Albert; this could have easily been a one-dimensional, goofy overweight guy, but James really seems like he did more with the character than was on the page. His Albert has a lot of heart, and James also doesn't go over-the-top with the comedy. Smith and James, despite not seeming like an obvious pairing given their styles, are really good together. Eva Mendes and Amber Valetta also provide good supporting efforts, as well.
Overall, despite my general dislike of formulaic romantic comedies like this (and "Hitch" doesn't exactly have any plot points that aren't obviously down the road), "Hitch" works thanks to solid NYC photography, good performances, fine direction and a satisfactory script. The movie could have been cut down a bit, but it doesn't suffer too terribly from being overlong.
VIDEO: "Hitch" is presented by Sony Pictures Home Video in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen (a pan & scan presentation is also available.) The presentation is generally very good, with sharpness that's generally okay - the picture looks a little on the soft side in several scenes, but appears a bit crisper in others.
Aside from the slightly inconsistent definition, the picture appeared crisp and clear. Edge enhancement was largely absent, but there were a few moments of slight grain and a trace or two of pixelation. Colors remained natural and attractive, with rich tones and nice saturation. Overall, a good effort, but slightly below greatness.
SOUND: "Hitch" is presented by Columbia/Tristar in Dolby Digital 5.1. The soundtrack does open up somewhat at times, with the surrounds kicking in on occasion for some ambience and minor sound effects. Audio quality was perfectly fine, with clear dialogue, music and effects. Not surprisingly, there isn't much in the way of low bass.
EXTRAS: Five fairly brief featurettes ("Dance Steps Made Easy", "Love in New York", "Will Smith's Red Carpet Race", "Hitch Style" and "The Dating Experts". There's also a moderately funny gag reel, deleted scenes and promos for other Columbia/Tristar titles. No commentary.
Final Thoughts: "Hitch" is definitely a pleasant surprise, with very good performances and a screenplay that doesn't offer anything unexpected, but does provide fine characters and some good laughs. The DVD edition provides very good audio and fine video, as well as a few nice supplements. Recommended for fans, but those who haven't seen it should try a rental.