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HITCH

SYNOPSIS:
Alex 'Hitch' Hitchens (Will Smith) is a professional ladies-man and matchmaker with an impressive track record. Known as the Date Doctor, Hitch uses unconventional means to coach his clients to make the all important first steps to get that first date with the woman of their dreams - no matter how far out of their reach the woman may be. Like accountant Albert (Kevin James) who's in love with his firm's big client, wealthy and beautiful heiress, Allegra (Amber Valletta). But when Hitch meets gossip columnist Sara (Eva Mendes), he finds himself in unfamiliar territory; genuine love.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
It begins like a black dude's version of Alfie, with Hitch (Will Smith) addressing us directly through the camera, talking about the art of getting a date with a beautiful woman. But the film's trajectory and its themes quickly take a different route. The comedy springs from a combination of recognisable characters and situations, but it's the deep seated seriousness of the subject - and its universality - that provides the fertile but solid grounding for the entertainment.

Will Smith, already a proven entertainer, delivers the goods as the bachelor with all the angles worked out: he has studied women and their public body language, and can coach lesser men how to avoid being dismissed without a fair go. Many of these observations are funny because they are in fact pretty accurate - and they rely as much on decency and common sense as on any special female understanding. Many of the clues are in fact good advice on how to behave intelligently and decently toward anyone.

This gets us firmly on Hitch's side as things deteriorate for him. But there are many plusses in following him on his 'Sistine Chapel' of a job: Albert the overweight accountant who is in love from afar with a client at his firm, the lovely heiress Allegra Cole, who hardly knows he exists. Until Hitch hatches a plan which Albert executes with bells on.

We're having fun along these lines when the film takes us on a bender with Hitch himself showing how it's done, as he pursues the resisting gossip columnist Sara (Eva Mendes). By the time Hitch has convinced her to a non-date 7am waterside breakfast followed by a surprise visit that has her weeping with emotion, we can see this guy is a pro - at getting dates.

What he then has to survive is a nasty smear campaign in which he is publicly named as the date doctor who engineers meetings that end in nasty one night stands.

Carefully controlled filmmaking navigates these dangerous waters with verve, and the cast help make it a highly engaging and entertaining movie with a few things to say, just quietly. Nothing frightfully original as the third act rolls around, but if you need a date movie or a feel good movie to wash away some blues, hitch a ride with Hitch.

Review by Louise Keller:
Hitch is the name and getting hitched is the game in this amusing romantic comedy that takes the concept of love, and turns it inside out. The core concept of a date doctor getting stung by his own game works, as does the winning combination of Will Smith and Eva Mendes. Both are in their element: Smith is charming and funny, while Mendes is warm and feisty. The use of parallel love stories between the two central characters and a couple whose unlikely pairing symbolises The Impossible Dream works beautifully and the script sings. Director Andy Tenant (Sweet Home Alabama) has great fun with the material, keeping it light without being flimsy, yet touching on emotions that ring true.

Smith is as his charismatic best in the genre, easily slipping into the likeable polished shoes of Alex 'Hitch' Hitchens, who once bitten by the love bug, goes from suave and confident to out of control and vulnerable. He knows all the moves and equates matchmaking with Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel - an inspired miracle of folly. Eva Mendes' gossip-columnist Sara Melas, according to her newspaper boss, can find dirt in a snow-storm, and is the ultimate cynic when it comes to relationships and commitment. Mendes is sexy and sassy, but always accessible, and the journey of hearts for Hitch and Sara is both unpredictable and satisfying. We chuckle knowingly as this courtship made in hell gets going: the first date goes horribly wrong, while the second is an absolute disaster.

Hitch is coaching Kevin James' Albert, a mild-mannered, clumsy accountant with an oversize crush on leggy celebrity Allegra Cole (Amber Valletta). Hitch is there to give Albert the confidence and know-how to get to first base. He tells him what to say but more importantly what not to say. The scene when Hitch teaches Albert the secret of that all-important first kiss, is one to savour. It involves Smith and James role-playing, with puckered lips and hilarious dialogue. TV comic James is first class, giving Albert a heart, beyond the slap-dash of his dawky exterior and the obvious comic possibilities it offers.

Of course we know where the plot is heading, but there are a couple of twists that come as a welcome surprise. I thoroughly enjoyed Hitch. It's sophisticated and smooth, but never takes itself too seriously and reminds us that love is a wild leap of faith that ultimately is worth the risk.



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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

HITCH (M)
(US, 2005)

CAST: Will Smith, Eva Mendes, Kevin James, Amber Valletta, Julie Ann Emery, Robinne Lee

PRODUCER: James Lassiter, Will Smith, Teddy Zee

DIRECTOR: Andy Tennant

SCRIPT: Kevin Bisch

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Andrew Dunn

EDITOR: Troy Takaki, Tracey Wadmore-Smith

MUSIC: George Fenton

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jane Musky

RUNNING TIME: 115 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sony Pictures

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 3, 2005

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

VIDEO RELEASE: August 17, 2005







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