Directed by Andy Tennant. Starring Will Smith, Kevin James, Amber Valletta, Eva Mendes, Michael Rapaport, Adam Arkin. (2005, PG-13, 115 min.)

REVIEWED By Steve Davis, Fri., Feb. 18, 2005

Will Smith has one of those most approachable faces in movies today – those sleepy eyes, that inviting grin, those ears! There’s “nice guy” written all over it. In the bland romantic comedy Hitch, Smith is cast as a smooth operator known as Manhattan’s “date doctor,” Alex "Hitch" Hitchens, a man who makes a living by teaching other guys how to win over the women of their dreams. But Smith’s affable screen persona undercuts the character’s edge; he’s not the player you’d expect him to be. That’s not to say that Smith isn’t enjoyable to watch as he coaches the hapless Albert (James), a buttoned-down accountant shaped like a bowling pin, on how to woo a New York heiress with whom he’s infatuated. (Nobody said that this script was in the least bit believable.) In most of these two actors’ scenes together, the laughs come from James playing the fool and Smith calling him on it, not the most sophisticated of comic setups but one that is occasionally amusing. Their interactions fare better than those between Smith and Mendes, the love interest supposedly so involved in her work as a tabloid gossip columnist that she has little time for relationships. Of course, she initially resists his overtures, not knowing that he makes a living based on overcoming such female resistance. What should be a battle of the sexes, however, is more like a brief skirmish without any of the tension that makes for an interesting – much less great – screen pairing. (At times, the glib banter they’re required to recite falls painfully flat.) In the end, while both of these performers look great together, they really don’t seem to belong together. And that’s the biggest hitch in Hitch.

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