Sunday, July 06, 2008
Why all the hatin’ on “Hancock”? I’m sorry, but I just don’t get it. Will Smith’s take on a half-drunk hero strikes the perfect balance between comedy, action, drama, and even a little sci-fi mixed in that all adds up to a thoroughly enjoyable 90 minutes at the multiplex.
The first half is downright hilarious, some of Smith’s best comedic work yet, and he’s been around that block a bunch of times. But unlike the moronic comedies from the likes of Will Ferrell or Ben Stiller—where they have to introduce some form of inane conflict just so their films can mercifully end—“Hancock” moves from shtick to drama so deftly you don't even notice how much you're sucked in until the movie reaches its climax. It wisely never attempts to go back to being funny, either, so the whole thing flows quite well. This works because the film’s three leads—Smith, Jason Bateman, and Charlize Theron—are so effective in making their respective characters real and relatable. Bateman especially shines, anchoring the entire operation in his droll wit and keeping the more fantastic elements you’d expect in any superhero movie somewhere in the realm of relative normalcy. And then there’s a doozy of a twist that I never saw coming, and the film takes off in a whole new direction that exposes at a deeper mythology to the whole storyline. Not all the questions are answered and the connections aren’t always exactly clear, but there’s really no need; the fact that such depth exists—if only in the filmmakers’ heads—adds credibility to the story.
So I must credit director Peter Berg (“The Kingdom,” “Friday Night Lights”) and especially screenwriters Vincent Ngo and Vince Gilligan for keeping their film free of cheese. By establishing Hancock as such a jerk right from the get-go, they don’t have to go very far to start him on the path to redemption, and thus Smith gets to play the superanti-hero just about the entire time.
The only thing I can figure regarding the overwhelmingly negative critical reaction to this film is that they all went way too easy this time last year on “Transformers” and wanted to “redeem” themselves for Independence Day 2008 by cracking down on another surefire crowd-pleaser. The only thing is, they’re wrong again: “Hancock” is a delight. I enjoyed it every bit as much as “Iron Man”—in some ways, even more.