—About this Film
Sometimes the romantic comedy formula seems dead. I mean, how many last-minute-realization/mad-dash-to-the-airport scenes can we endure? How many quirky best friend characters? How many predictably happy endings? But still, I for one don’t mind seeing a well-worn formula done well—after all, formulas become formulas because, at some level, they work. Hitch works. It follows the romantic comedy formula well, and also manages to do some unique things with it. In the end, it’s good for lots of laughs, the requisite insights into love and life, some great dialogue, and hopefully, more opportunities for Kevin James to get film roles.
Speaking of which, this movie was cast perfectly. James uses his established image—as the “funny big guy” from King of Queens—but I think also shows himself capable of doing some more complex stuff. And what about Hitch himself? Well, a better role for Will Smith is hard to imagine. I think he’d be believable as the supremely confident, lady-killing Date Doctor, even if this were his first role. But he’s even more believable because of the super-cool and confident “Will Smith ethos” that has built up from nearly all of his previous work. Of course, Smith also here plays against this persona to humorous effect—a shtick that started way back in his days as a rapper, when he was one of the first people to be self-deprecating and funny in a genre built on strict machismo. Likewise, the two leading ladies (Eva Mendes and Amber Valletta), though typecast, play their parts very well—being likable, standoffish, smart, desirable, aloof, etc., when needed.
These well-cast actors, as the formula dictates, get caught up in a comedy of errors that works itself out in the end. Smith is the aforementioned Date Doctor—capable of secretly helping less-than-smooth men get the ladies they love—who simultaneously takes on James as a client, and meets Mendes, a gossip columnist. Before long, Smith begins to fall for his girl, just as James’ girl begins to fall for him. Of course, problems arise: Smith isn’t able to be as cool with this woman as he is with other women, she gets the wrong idea about how he helps his clients and publishes a column about him, thereby outing James, and so on. How all of this works out isn’t unique, given the formula. There is, in fact, one of those mad-dash-to-the-airport type scenes, and a wedding to boot. Unfortunately, for me, this did detract from the ending. Like I said, I don’t mind a movie following the conventions of its genre, but this film was being just unique enough to make me hope for a unique take on the ending—it didn’t deliver.
However, the uniqueness of the rest of the movie remains. Hitch is basically a Cyrano de Bergerac type character. He helps other men with their romantic ambitions, necessarily putting his own romantic ambitions on hold. Normally in a romantic comedy, this type of character would lead to a love triangle plot—think The Wedding Planner or The Truth About Cats and Dogs. But in Hitch, there isn’t a love triangle. The Cyrano character eventually has his own romantic ambitions awakened without interfering with those of his clients at all. Also, in this type of movie there is usually only one major love story, or a focus on one mainly. But Hitch gives ample time to both Smith and James’ love stories, to great effect—this is the closest thing to a merger of the romantic comedy and buddy comedy genres that I’ve ever seen.
Thematically, though, Hitch again returns to the formula. From Smith’s story, we learn that love is worth a chance—that no matter the pain it may have caused in the past, it’s still worth it. From James’ story, we learn that people will love you for who you are. Simple themes, and themes that have been dealt with extensively in this genre. But also, I think, themes that always have had, and always will have, spiritual relevance.
Spiritual relevance? How? Well, the Christian story is, in a sense, a romantic comedy. It’s a comedy in the classic sense that it’s a story with a happy ending. It’s romantic in that, according to this story, God wants us, and pursues us, sacrifices for us, gives gifts to us, cares for us, etc., in a way that’s analogous to a lover/beloved relationship. This is an idea as old as the Song of Solomon, and as recent as Ted Dekker’s excellent Circle trilogy, where his characters practice an allegorical representation of Christianity, which they call “The Great Romance.” So, since the Christian story is a romantic comedy, we shouldn’t be surprised that the themes of this kind of movie will connect.
With this in mind, perhaps Hitch can connect to those of us who’ve been hurt by the church, or by Christians, or to those who perhaps feel they’ve been hurt by God himself. Perhaps it can make us take down our walls or masks, like James’ character, and be ourselves—honestly admitting that we still want that relationship, despite the hurt, like Smith’s character. Perhaps it can encourage us to take a chance, to remember that God’s love really is worth it, in the end.
Of course, with a movie like this, the fact that it can work—as all stories can—at that deeper level, is just an added bonus. Mostly, I just want to say that it’s an entertaining film, with great comedic moments, apt and sometimes unique handling of the genre, and a perfect cast. I just want to say, mostly, that it’s fun. Happy Valentine’s Day!
—About this Film