“Is Hitch a noun or a verb?” Sarah (Eva Mendes) asks Alex “Hitch” Hitchens (Will Smith). “It depends,” he answers. It’s actually a little of both. Hitch is a “date doctor,” a sort of Straight Eye for the Straight Guy who advises men on how to appeal to the women of their dreams. Hitch as in “stick with him if you want to get hitched.”
He tells his clients that “any man has the chance to sweep a woman off her feet. You just need the right broom.” He advises them on everything from the first look (“Sixty percent of all human communication is non-verbal. Thirty percent is your tone.”) to the first kiss (he advises the men to lean in ninety percent of the way and let her come that last ten percent toward him). He gives them tips on grooming and attire. And he reminds them to listen and respond, to let the women know really get to know them — just maybe not all at once.
Hitch has it all figured out — for other guys. His heart was broken back in college and he’s never risked it again.
And in the other corner, ladies and gentlemen, we have Sarah, a gossip columnist who is cynical about love.
Hitch is advising a nebbishy accountant (Kevin James) who is in love with a beautiful heiress (Amber Valetta). This is the very same heiress whose love life is documented on a daily basis by Sarah, who cannot seem to understand this new relationship. Meanwhile, not knowing what his connection is to the the beast to the heiress’ beauty, Sarah goes on two dates with Hitch, both of which develop serious, uh, hitches along the way.
It’s all familiar romantic comedy territory — evasions, followed by complications, humiliations, the course of true love’s not running smoothly, and then…running a bit more smoothly. And then not smoothly again.
Kevin James is wonderfully funny and just as wonderfully sweet. His joyously dorky dance is sublime, but so is the shyly happy look on his face when he hands the heiress a pen, almost overcome by the thrill of just touching something she will use.
The movie’s biggest asset is Smith, who has everything it takes to be a romantic comedy superstar. He has the timing of an atomic clock and can handle all kinds of comedy — physical and verbal, high and low, along with a dazzling smile and the presence and conviction to carry off the tender moments, too. Plus, no one is better at talking to the camera than he is. Mendes never makes the character sparkle (as she did in Stuck on You) or sizzle (as she did in Out of Time), but that is the fault of the script, which leaves promising set-ups unfinished to pursue ideas that are far less interesting or appealing, especially a joke(?) about a serial killer. If it does not knock it out of the park, it at least qualifies as a triple, a pleasant date movie that delivers several laughs and — harder to find these days — a couple of satisfied smiles.
Parents should know that some of the material in this movie is on the R-edge of a PG-13 with some strong language (one f-word), alcohol (including drinking as a response to a bad day), and sexual situations and references. But parents should also know that this movie comes down very strongly on the side of romance. It takes kissing very seriously. A man and woman who have a one-night stand are both very unhappy with the outcome (for different reasons). There is a character who sexually exploits women whose behavior is portrayed as reprehensible. The focus of this movie is on romance and lasting love. Another strength of the movie is its color-blind casting, with diverse characters sharing friendships and romantic relationships.
Families who see this movie should talk about how it can be nerve-wracking to try to make a good impression on the opposite sex, especially someone who seems very desirable. What do you think of Hitch’s rules and advice? They should talk about the idea that you should “Begin each day as if it were on purpose.” What does it mean to be “all about the short game?”
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy other romantic comedies like Barefoot in the Park, You’ve Got Mail, and French Kiss.