Whether or not you enjoy Hitch depends entirely on how you feel about Will Smith. If he's a charming, funny and likeable star with charisma in spades, then you're onto an entertaining (if uneven) winner. But if he's a cocky, overrated nuisance to cinema, a one-trick pony somehow, inexplicably, mopping up on his Fresh Prince Of Bel Air schtick, then here are two words: Wide. Berth.
Opening with Smith's Alfie-esque address to camera, Hitch asks - - nay, demands - - that its audience like and approve of its protagonist from the get-go. If you're not `feeling' Mr Smith as he cocks an eyebrow while breezing through his tricks to entrap young fillies, then you're in for a rough ride. Still, give it ten minutes, plus the arrival of Everyone Loves Raymond's endearing Kevin James and some dreamy shots of summertime NYC, and you may well find yourself being sucked in for a pleasant, predictable slice of quality meet-cute and comedic set-pieces.
Kevin Bisch's script plays like a series of inspirational fridge magnets as a supposedly prickly newspaper editor (a wasted Alan Arkin) spouts sage love advice and jaded single gal Sara (Eva Mendes) spits, ""Relationships are for people who are waiting for something better to come around"." However, as soon as the pseudo-Sex And The City jazzy soundtrack has finished noodling and the relationship mantras and frantic character introductions have settled down, Hitch hits its stride.
Smith and Mendes spark off each other on a couple of disastrous dates as professional smoothie Hitch becomes a bumbling fool when dealing with the object of his own affections. Scenes in which he accidentally biffs Sara in the head and discovers a disfiguring food allergy are genuinely, mortifyingly funny. It's just a shame that the laughs are thinned out with an indolent two-hour running time that concludes with another audience divider: the obligatory public declaration.
Of course, if you've come this far then you're probably already charmed - - and by the time the cast are throwing ridiculous shapes on the dancefloor as the credits roll, you'll have a grin on your face a mile wide...
A breezy, zingy, superior rom-com that's perfect for a date - or a weapon of torture, depending on your Big Willie and saccharine tolerance.