Reviewed By Elaine Perrone
Posted 02/12/05 18:51:29

"By all means, get Hitched this Valentine's Day weekend."
4 stars (Worth A Look)

The experience of “Hitch” is somewhat like being invited out on a date with a quirky friend – no one you’d want to marry, mind you, but an amiable person with whom you enjoy spending a lively evening. When that person arrives at your door, he or she is bearing the most beautifully wrapped box of chocolates, all tied up with a lovely bow. When you open the box, you’re delighted to find an assortment of your favorites – in this case, 74 of them. I don’t know about you, but in a situation like this I don’t even try to resist.

“Hitch” was filmed entirely in New York, on 74 locations, and as seen through the lens of DP Andrew Dunn, the city couldn’t possibly be more glorious. Much of the movie was shot downtown, in and around SoHo and the Meatpacking District near 14th Street. Pivotal scenes were shot in Central Park, in the Fulton Fish Market, inside and outside the Ellis Island Museum, on the Hudson River waterfront, and on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum. A lot of the fun comes from spotting the film’s “non-human” stars and cameo players, from the Statue of Liberty, Madison Square Garden, and the Chrysler Building to a trendy rice-pudding restaurant, Rice to Riches, in NoLita on the Lower East Side. The loft interiors were shot from real lofts in TriBeCa and SoHo, with spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline. Even if “Hitch” had absolutely nothing else to offer, it is well worth the price of admission to view it as a lovely Valentine to New York City, decked out in all her best and saturated in brilliant color.

On the level of a screwball romantic comedy, “Hitch” hardly qualifies as a classic, but it definitely comes under the category of that enjoyable moviegoing experience known as Big Dumb Fun.

Will Smith is utterly charming as Alex Hitchens, a dating coach who “hitches” up decent but schlubby men with the women of their dreams, with whom they might otherwise never have had a prayer of connecting. As Hitch philosophizes, “Any man has a chance to sweep any woman off her feet – he just needs the right broom.” Hitch works anonymously and only by referral. His cardinal rule is that he will not coach any man who treats women disrespectfully.

Hitch’s latest client is Albert (an hilarious Kevin James), a nebbishy accountant who wears white socks with his suits and who has a propensity for spilling mustard on his lapel. While coaching Albert in his quest to win the heart of heiress Allegra Cole (Amber Valletta), Hitch makes his own connection with Sara Melas (Eva Mendes), a gossip columnist who follows Allegra’s every move and who is trying to get the scoop on the anonymous “Date Doctor.”

Of course, complications ensue and identities – and intentions – are mistaken before everything is wrapped up exactly the way it should be in the end. Still, the performances are scintillating, director Andy Tennant’s hand is light and deft, and first-time screenwriter Kevin Bisch’s script is warm and funny.

As a whole, “Hitch” is as bubbly and sparkling as a glass of Champagne – the perfect accompaniment to that box of chocolates this Valentine’s Day weekend.

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