I’m not sure why “Romantic” movies are also coupled with “Comedy,” but for some reason, the two seem inextricably linked like “Peanut Butter” and “(something else).”  But for whatever reason, Romantic Comedies seem to have found their audience, and they’re generally a pretty safe bet for Hollywood producers as well as the viewing public.  Rom-coms don’t usually have massive budgets like sci-fi epics or action movies, and aside from some anomalies like My Big Fat Greek Wedding, they typically don’t dominate the box office but usually have no trouble making their money back.  Most mainstream Rom-Coms rely on the star power of one or two notable actors, a rather formulaic plot, and a feel-good ending that implies the same “happily ever after” resolution as most childhood fairy tales.

That’s not to say Romantic Comedies aren’t enjoyable, just predictable.  Hitch, while still being romantic, comedic, and predictable, does have enough variations from the norm to make it interesting and fun to watch, even though its serious flaws are tough to overlook.  Will Smith plays Alex Hitchens, a guy who “creates opportunities” for people to hook up.  He doesn’t directly pair up guys with the girls of their dreams, but instead he shows guys how to adjust their attitude and self-image so as to appear more attractive and desirable to the women they are trying to go out with.  In the obligatory (for this kind of setup) montage near the beginning of the movie, Hitch shows a socially akward fireman how to be more calm and collected around a particular girl, another guy how to lose some of the bad habits he has picked up, and so on.  Hitch guarantees that he can get any girl to go out with any guy for at least three dates.  This presents a rather interesting problem when a very akward accountant named Albert Brennaman, played by the affable Kevin James, enlists Hitch’s help in getting a date with his client Allegra Cole–essentially this movie’s version of a more intelligent Paris Hilton.  The setup is perfect for showcasing what makes Hitch unique not only within the movie, but within the canon of Romantic Comedies and Hollywood in general:  he refuses to create opportunities for simple one-night stands.  Instead, his goal is to help people find fulfilling, long-lasting relationships that have far more depth than what is usually portrayed on the silver screen.

Hitch and Albert, both searching for love. In other words, too much story for only one movie.

This premise in itself might make for an interesting enough movie on its own, but fortunately the movie is a bit smarter than that and also delves into the backstory of Hitch himself–ironically, though he is known as the “Date Doctor,” he has his own fears of commitment and has never had a long-lasting relationship.  But this divergence in the movie is also one of the film’s weak points, as it is handled a little too clumsily and gives the storyline a distinct lack of focus.  While Hitch is busy helping Albert with proper dance moves at the club, how to speak with confidence, and the “90%” rule of kissing a woman, he is also busy chasing local gossip columnist Sara Meles (Eva Mendes).  And this is where things get a little confusing:  just when we are getting to know Albert and feel empathy for him and his situation, we are taken on a side quest with Hitch as he tries to hook himself up with Sara.  The two of them go on dates with hilarious pratfalls such as Hitch accidentally kicking Sara off her jetski and into the polluted waters of the Hudson River, and Hitch himself getting a horrible outbreak of facial swelling due to a food allergy.  Har!

As if these two plots weren’t enough, there is another subplot involving Sara’s friend Casey and a guy Hitch refuses to work with, because all he wants to do is sleep with her.  This of course leads to misunderstandings, confusion, and the sorts of conflicts that are omnipresent in Romantic Comedies.  In the end, everything plays out about as you would expect, and though I won’t spoil anything here, I will say that pretty much every Romantic Comedy cliche right down the climax and denouement is present here.

Let me be clear:  predictability is not a bad thing, and I don’t mean to cast aspersions on Romantic Comedies in general.  But what keeps Hitch from being more than average is its poor handling of the multiple storylines, and a general lack of character development for everyone but Hitch himself (the relationship between Albert and Allegra is never explored very much, despite ostensibly being the main focus of the movie).  Is it a passable Romantic Comedy?  Sure.  It’s just not much more.


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