Andy Tennant

BY Travis Mackenzie HooverPublished Feb 1, 2005

Will Smith's easy charm is matched by a surprisingly able backup in this slim but satisfying romantic trifle. Smith plays Alex "Hitch" Hitchens, a "date doctor" who helps awkward men finesse their way into women's hearts. He's just met his commitment-phobic match in Sara (Eva Mendes), a gossip columnist who is either his dream woman or his ultimate nemesis, and faces his greatest career challenge in Albert Brenneman (Kevin James), a cringing flunky who desires one of the richest women in New York. It's not easy being Hitch, but in true rom-com fashion he's going to have his assumptions about women and his job turned upside down.

No Twelfth Night this, but it's pretty entertaining all the same. If it stops just short of actual style it has enough trace elements of craft to keep you from tuning out — director Andy Tennant at least understands the allure of bright, attractive people in classy surroundings and has a gentle enough touch to keep it from descending into lifestyle porn. Ditto for Kevin Bisch's gently comic script, which though conventional has occasional flashes of wit and a clever scene involving a nasty case of food allergies.

There is, alas, a certain amount of hypocrisy to its "every guy should have a shot" ethos, as most of the guys are schleps and most of the women are desperately beautiful; the pairing of James with the statuesque Amber Valletta, though charitable, is not matched by a torrid romance between Smith and, say, Margaret Cho in her I'm the One That I Want heyday (who actually wouldn't be out of place here). But it's solidly enough built to make you overlook this considerable handicap and serves as a guilty pleasure that won't make you feel all that guilty. (Columbia/Sony)

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