Time: 118 mins.
Genre: Romantic Comedy
SYNOPSIS: While helping his latest client woo the fine lady of his dreams, a professional "date doctor" finds his game doesn't quite work on the gossip columnist with whom he's smitten.
BOTTOM LINE: This is one of those high-concept movies that survives mostly on its casting – in this case of the slick and charming, yet willing to be sweet and silly Will Smith, as Hitch ("the date doctor") and the chubby, nerdy Kevin James as Albert, an insecure slub who needs his help. These two work so well together the film's energy and sense of fun dies a bit when they're apart, which should be a problem for a romantic comedy, but isnt here. Mostly because all of their efforts are in the name of love and trying to find the one woman who will make you happy. It goes without saying that Smith and Mendes have better chemistry than James and Valletta, and yet Amber makes you believe that her character – Allegra Cole, a rich, world-famous model – could actually be interested in an accountant. I guess she's a better actress than I thought. Or maybe it's because he treats her like a human being instead of a commodity or a conquest. Not exactly sure you need to pay someone for advice like that, but somehow Hitch makes his counsel seem useful, endearing and necessary.
I can't say I cared for Mendes' gossip columnist character Sara. While she was smart and sexy in her interactions with Hitch and probably had many reasons for not trusting men, her behavior through much of the film is not very classy. That she has a problem with what Hitch does for a living is a bit like the pot calling the kettle black. He may be trying to hook men up with their dream girls, but his methods aren't sleazy, just not exactly completely honest. All she does is report "news" designed to expose the private lives of public people. Whether it hurts them or not, doesn't seem to matter, which made her hard to like. Hitch is initially smooth as glass when he begins to court her, but a series of unlikely, yet funny mishaps occur on their first several dates. All of the tricks he normally employs for his clients backfire horribly for him, though make him somehow more endearing to Sara, a woman with a heart of stone. These "accidents" not only take him down a peg, they allow Smith a chance to show his all-out goofy side with pretty funny results.
Just when things seem to be going well for both couples, a misunderstanding by Sara causes her to reveal Hitch's identity as the "date doctor" out of revenge, which brings both romances – and the film – to a screaching halt. One feels the worst for Albert and Allegra, who appear to have constructed an honest relationship despite/because of the coaching from Hitch. It's a nice turn of play to watch men wallow in heartbreak, even if we know that happiness is just around the corner. I could understand Allegra feeling played, but I just wanted to slap Mendes. Her character caused this mess due to her assumptions about Hitch from a bad date her friend went on with someone who claimed to be a client, but was a filthy pig all on his own. She should be begging Hitch to come back to her, not the other way around. Smith is in his element, showing great comic timing and charisma. I can't think of anyone else who could have pulled this part off so effortlessly. All in all this is a pretty smart, romantic and funny film with a decent plot that both sexes can enjoy. Not a classic, but worth a look.