2005-03-04 / Columnists


By Robert Snyder

Actor/comedian Will Smith has battled outer space aliens and earthly androids, so now it’s time for some smooth sophisticated sex-and-the-city-type comedy. Right?

With “Hitch,” Smith takes on the role of urbane matchmaker Alex “Hitch” Hitchens, whose adolescent heartbreak has transformed him into a dedicated “date doctor.” Although he takes a commission, his commitment is to only accept clients who are sincerely looking for love and not lust. However, his honest approach faces fierce skepticism from Sara Melas (Eva Mendes), a gossip columnist with a vendetta against lotharios of the rich and famous. Of course, cupid is around the corner for Cyrano and the Siren.

The slow to jell plot by first-time screenwriter Kevin Bisch finally focuses on nerdish financial advisor Albert Brennaman (Kevin James) and his pathetic attempts to woo beautiful/ socialite/heiress Allegra Cole (Amber Valletta). While Sara zeroes in on Allegra for tabloid scoops, Hitch applies his considerable expertise to upgrading Albert in the GQ department. Directed by Andy Tennant (“Sweet Home Alabama,” “Ever After”), “Hitch” is at its funniest when Smith and James are working together, particularly in a classic scene where Hitch teaches Albert how to angle for a first kiss.

Where the movie moves to mush are during the sequences of mismatched romance between our hero and the under-the-cover(s) reporter. Still, Smith keeps things rolling with his ample charisma and knack for comedy. “Hitch” is also helped by some sexy episodes of swinging singles in the city.

For those looking for an amusing, but overlong love story, “Hitch” may help get juices flowing on an initial date. If you can make it to the cute dance number during end titles, a first kiss could be forthcoming.

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