Hitch’s Stitches of Love

Will Smith plays Alex “Hitch” Hitchens, a date doctor who teaches hopeless bachelors be a better player in the game of love. He’s one of those friendly narrators that looks at the screen and talks to you. And what he says is worth listening to. His acute observations about contemporary dating actually sound sound and educational. His latest client is Albert (Kevin James), a tubby accountant who is pining for a woman who’s “out of his league.” The catch is Allegra Cole (Amber Valleta), a beautiful and rich celebrity. At the same time, Hitch is on the prowl himself when he falls for Sara Melas (Eva Mendes), a hard-edged gossip columnist.

The bulk of the story concentrates on Sara and Hitch. It’s entertaining when the relaxed Hitch slowly and persistently try to reel in Sara. But Mister Suave is not all smooth. He stumbles when he has food allergy reactions and his shirt is caught on a cab door. But I sensed these flaws play more for laughs rather than humanizing the slick Hitch.

The movie takes a dive when the romance sinks in frustrating contrivances. You have to see what stupid thing they’ll fight about. It’s something that could have been prevented if one character had stopped jumping to conclusions. Eva Mendes, as good-looking as she is, is rather a blah of a character. It’s a badly written role, but a more charming actress could have pulled it off. She’s unlikable that by the end, I thought she doesn’t deserve a good guy like Hitch. I don’t know. I just want to throw something at the screen whenever a woman becomes overdramatic for no good reason. And for some bad reason, these women exist in bad romantic movies.

The meaty story here is between Will Smith and Kevin James, which sadly is only a subplot. Their affable chemistry is a breath of fresh air. The movie would have been substantially better had they focused on these duo alone. Kevin James may have a movie career outside “King of Queens” if he finds good supporting roles like this. His Albert is aware of shortcomings but can’t help acting like a dork. Will Smith gives one of his more likeable performances in years. Hitch fits him like a glove. He’s more confident than cocky. He’s more sensible than deluded. No fishy selfish stench from “Shark Tale” here. But I wish Will Smith brought with him some car chase or shoot-out scenes to balance this estrogen-driven story. “Hitch” is worth the ride when it’s fun, but when the road gets bumpy, you almost feel like ditching.

Grade: B