Sunday, July 20, 2008

Hancock: Um, I Don't Know?

Ever leave a movie without knowing whether or not you liked it? I ask because I saw Hancock Saturday night and, well, for the life of me I can't tell you how I feel about that.

Will Smith does his usual Will Smith thing as the alcoholic, foul-mouthed title "hero." Smith isn't a particularly distinguished actor, but there's a real talent in his ability to maintain likability no matter the role he's playing or the lines he's spouting. Say what you will about the guy, but it takes skill to charm the audience while drinking, swearing at children and throwing said children several thousand feet into the air. Despite the boozing and the temper (Hancock blows up upon being called an asshole), Smith never threatens the audience.

Which is impressive on one level, but sort of drains the tension from the movie. See, Hancock is supposed to be a real bastard. He heroes drunk. His takeoffs and landings destroy property and injure people. His "heroics" cost the city of Los Angeles several million dollars in collateral damage. He ignores subpoenas. At the base level he might mean well, but when we first meet the guy, he's not sympathetic.

But Smith is just too damn charming, even in his cretin state, to make us lose sympathy with him. As a result there's never really any doubt that the Fresh Prince will mend his ways with the help of an idealistic PR man played by Jason Bateman. In the film's defense, there's really very little dramatic tension in most summer blockbusters. (Anyone who has seen The Dark Knight and offers any sort of spoiler will be banned.)

Still, Hancock doesn't really give you much chance to think through all that. Checking in at an anachronistically brief hour and 33 minutes, the movie flits effortlessly from scene to scene. We get one extended sequence of Hancock as a jerk hero. We get one extended sequence of Hancock heroing it up with the proper respect and dignity. We get one extended ending sequence. Sprinkle in some exposition and some jail time, and you've got Hancock.

There's a major, fairly nifty twist halfway through the film that's never quite adequately explored and should leave most viewers with a healthy case of fridge logic.

Oh, Charlize Theron is there. Remember when she won an Oscar? That was cool. You like looking at her, right? Well have at it, America!

So...yeah. That's Hancock: the movie that made no impression.

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