Monday, June 22, 2009

Will Smith: Super Guy

I've decided to save the sarcasm for the review proper, for even though he is still in the icy grip of the likes of Michael Mann, Akiva Goldsman and James Lassiter (not Pixar's John Lasseter) and an ever growing cadre of big-time Hollywood producers, Will Smith is still Mr. Fourth of July, as far as I'm concerned. Seriously, though, Will, the list is getting too long. Every film nowadays has, like, 50 producers and 100 executive producers. Jonathan Mostow? Didn't he screw up Terminator 3? How does he get to keep working?
Anyway, on to the movie review proper. I'm tempted to call Hancock here a prequel to The Soloist, but only because Jason Bateman reminded me a little too much of Robert Downey Jr., but at least Bateman's got some baby fat left. Oh, and because the plots involve a white dude helping out a black dude. If you want to save yourself some time and heartache, you can end it with this: as an IMDb reviewer put it, "a good idea... poorly executed!" I couldn't have said it better myself, but I'm at least tempted to give Smith & Co. the benefit of the doubt. And I think I see what the screenwriters were trying to do here, but let's face it: these days, how many times can you wipe the superhero slate clean? In 2008 alone we had the Hulk reboot, the biggest Batman ever, Iron Man, and ... something else, I'm sure.
As you might know, I like to dig deeper and look at the hidden or not-so-hidden connections to everything. One of the scripters is the venerable Vince Gilligan, perhaps best known for his work on The X Files, but for me, this would make a great double bill with Wilder Napalm. It and Hancock are both layered stories about extraordinary people coming to terms with the powers they've been given.
But I've neglected to mention the plot. Hancock (Will Smith) starts out the movie as a superhero on the skids. Good starting point. Try to block out the bad Superman from Superman 3... you already did? Good! Anyway, he saves Jason Bateman's life, and Bateman wants to pay it forward (1) out of the goodness of his heart, and (2) he does happen to work in public relations, something Hancock could use at that point. The scenes of Hancock saving the day, yet causing colossal damage in the process, were pretty hilarious. (Think the fallout in Ghost Busters 2, but all in the same movie)
It's starting to look like a Michael Bay-esque boys night out at the movies. And frankly, I was assuming that was all director Peter Berg was capable of. But Michael Mann has mentored him well, and at some point you might notice a not-so-subtle shift in the tone of the movie. I'll try not to give it away, even though the commercials for Starz! already did, but I would like to point out that we find that the husband and wife relationship of Jason Bateman and Charlize Theron is not so dissimilar to Larry Craig's situation: Bateman's kid is from a previous marriage. So, what is Hancock? Is he like Superman, or like Highlander? A little bit of both, as you might expect. The flying sequences were a little reminiscent of The Forgotten for me. I got the feeling in The Forgotten that they were done on the cheap, as they couldn't afford Vista Glide technology to make it look cooler. There's also an arch bad guy we meet in a scene semi-reminiscent of the big botched heist scene from Mann's Heat, but I think we can all agree that it's a bit of an afterthought, considering what he's up against.
I threw in the part about a Michael Bay-esque boys' night out because the film tries to have it both ways. We've got the funny destruction stuff in the first half, but then we get the maternal nurturing stuff in the second. Single people aren't getting the respect they deserve from our nation's blockbusters lately, I'm afraid, but alas, I'm not smart enough yet to address that full on. We're treated to Hancock's mortality, and a similar inverse relationship like at the end of the first Spider Man, where two people have to stay away from each other... oh, but I'm giving too much away now. The door's open for a sequel, but I'm not optimistic about it at this point. The box office might've been, but the franchise might buckle under the weight of Hancock's physics and loopholes thereof. I should probably give it less than three stars, but what the hell. I'm feeling generous.
...changed my mind. Three stars for the first half. And the kid in the movie. His name is Jae Head, but I still think he's one of the Culkins. And how did the Reno 911 guy get in on this? Isn't he ruining enough things on his own as it is?

-so sayeth the Movie Hooligan

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