Is Hitch more or less the same story in every other romantic comedy made since the dawn of time? Yes. There are two ways to make a really successful romcom. The first is to do something completely original, and movie like this rarely appear. The second is to work with the same formula everybody else has, and do it just a little differently. This is what Hitch does. So while everybody knows exactly what will happen, it still feels a bit fresher than usual. And it's hard to believe that this is the first of this type of movie for Will Smith (Shark Tale, I, Robot), who usually stays within the confines of large tentpole action films with an occasional drama thrown in for good measure. As the Date Doctor, Alex "Hitch" Hitchens, spends his time counseling 'ordinary' men on how to improve their chances with women normally unattainable. He does this by coaching them on how to listen, show respect, and be a gentleman. Hitch is very selective about who he works for; he wants to make lasting relationships. He refuses to work for anybody looking for a quick fling.

Wow. He is surprisingly good-natured. And one of the interesting aspects of Kevin Bisch's screenplay is how nice everybody is. All four of the main characters are, likable, and for the most part, genial and warm. And all four of the leads display this same sense of normalcy and friendliness, making it easy to get caught up in their lives. Smith in particular is extremely charming, and game for many of the embarrassments that Bisch and director Andy Tennant (Sweet Home Alabama, Anna and the King) heap upon him. Albert Brenneman (Kevin James, 50 First Dates), a mild-mannered, somewhat socially inept accountant, hires Hitch to help him win the heart of one of his clients, Allegra Cole (Amber Valletta, Raising Helen, Duplex), a rich Manhattan socialite that is light years beyond Brenneman's league.

Most romantic comedies have one main story, and another subplot, usually involving friends of the two leads. Hitch splits its time between Albert's courtship of Allegra, and Hitch's attempts to woo gossip columnist Sara Melas (Stuck On You, Out of Time), who was the person responsible for outing Allegra's last fling. Sara is wary of all men, especially when they are as charming as Hitch is. Still, he manages to coax her on a few dates, none of which go the way he expects. At the same time, Sara's latest job is to try to figure out everything about Albert and why Allegra would date him, yet has no clue that Hitch is giving Albert pointers. Here is the 'hitch' that will eventually come up to force the couples apart, only to have them somehow come back together. Don't try to fight it - it's just the way these movies work. Tennant does drag things out a bit, especially near the end, but overall he gives hitch a nice, breezy feel to it.

In a flashback, Tennant shows that a bad relationship in college was responsible for Hitch's calling. Sara hides behind a sarcastic veneer, afraid to fall in love. Sara is still relatively new in her career, but her character stands up nicely to Smith, and they do have a fun sense of chemistry. The snappy dialogue between the two when they first meeting is tiring, but their subsequent dates are fun in a wacky way. The third relationship in Hitch involves Hitch and Albert. Hitch is helping Albert become a more confident man, and of course, Albert just may be able to help out Hitch also. James, with a nice gift for physical comedy, even manages to steal the show away from Smith a few times. Sure, one needs to suspend disbelief to believe some of the things that are happening, but Tennant and Bisch create such a nice, idealized world that one doesn't really care. Most people will probably forget most of the film once they leave the theaters, but for its duration, Hitch is fun.

Haro Rates It: Not Bad.
1 hour, 55 minutes, Rated PG-13 for language and strong sexual references.

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