STARRING: Will Smith, Jason Bateman, Charlize Theron, Daeg Faerch, Lauren Hill, Darrell Foster, Valerie Azlynn, Kate Clarke, David Mattey, Lily Mariye, Shea Curry

2008, 92 Minutes, Directed by:
Peter Berg

If its marketing made you believe that Will Smith is returning to family-friendly Men In Black blockbuster comedy territory with Hancock, then think again . . .

Hancock isn’t exactly “family friendly” – the film is simply too dark with too much swearing and violence for that. Your eleven-year-old boy may nag you to go see it, but it is probably better that you give it a skip and take the little tyke to Wall-E instead. Older teenagers – in particular boys – will enjoy it though and the movie was probably made with them in mind. It would seem that director Peter Berg was telling the truth when he admitted in a recent interview that “the ad campaign for this movie is much friendlier than the film.” So heed the R age restriction.

Hancock is however familiar comedy territory for Smith after showing off his acting muscles in the recent I Am Legend. Sort of. Even though the film’s light-hearted comedic elements nestle uncomfortably next to its more “adult” cussing and violence, Hancock however illustrates why Will Smith is such a big star - probably bigger than Tom Cruise nowadays! Much of the film coasts on his considerable charisma and his ability to make what is a bona fide “asshole” of a character actually likeable. But make no mistake: there is an uncomfortable mean-spiritedness bubbling near to the surface at times, in particular in regards to some fascist-like power fantasies typical of the superhero genre. Comic book writers usually solve this dilemma by pitching their super-powered heroes against equally super-powered villains, but here Will Smith’s character gets to pick on mere ordinary mortals including, in one scene, a small boy. The question is should we be finding this funny? I dunno. But laughing at it makes one feel just slightly icky . . .

Hancock’s biggest problem though isn’t the unexpected strong language or violence, but the startling shift in tone the movie undergoes at the half-way mark so.

"The film’s light-hearted comedic elements sit uncomfortably next to its more 'adult' cussing and violence . . ."

It all starts off pretty decent: John Hancock (Will Smith) is Los Angeles’ resident superhero with near Superman-like capabilities and strength. Only problem is that even though Hancock catches bad guys and saves people’s lives, he is a clumsy drunk. One hilarious scene has him drunkenly trying to avoid all kinds of air traffic in the guise of a flock of birds and a jumbo jet (Superman never had to cope with this sort of thing!) as he goes off in pursuit of some bad guys on the L.A. freeway. The resultant property damage as Hancock inadvertently writes off a traffic overhead sign amongst others makes the authorities issue a warrant for his arrest. Hancock’s real problem though is that he has an abrasive personality and doesn’t exactly care what people think of him.

So one day when he rescues a PR specialist (Jason Bateman) from being crushed by an oncoming train, the PR guy offers to help Hancock to clean up his act and improve his public image. Hancock reluctantly accepts the offer and takes the Bateman character home where he meets his wife (Charlize Theron) and small boy. At the PR expert’s advice Hancock agrees to be incarcerated for his crimes. His PR strategy? With Hancock off the streets crime will skyrocket and in no time the authorities will ask for his help again, which does indeed happen.

It is however at this point that Hancock suddenly veers from light comedy to heavy drama as we [SPOILERS AHEAD!] discover that Charlize Theron also has superpowers and that they are both immortals “meant for each other”. [END SPOILERS!] This shift in tone is jarring and although one would like to applaud the screenwriters for taking the movie into unpredictable directions, it alters the movie’s vibe considerably. Suddenly the movie is all serious and dramatic in time for the film’s overly violent climax. This unexpected plot twist also throws up more questions and plot holes than one would have liked it to. Like the swearing and violence it simply feels out of place in a movie like this, especially when the movie’s gawky “happy” ending finally rolls along. After all, how can this be a happy ending? Haven’t any of the screenwriters seen Highlander?

Hancock is entertaining and funny for the most part. It is not a bad movie by any stretch of the imagination. At a brisk 92 minutes it also never feels overlong or boring. But it could have been good instead of just okay . . .



blog comments powered by Disqus

Latest Headlines

Most Popular

Copyright © 1997-forward James O'Ehley/The Sci-Fi Movie Page (unless where indicated otherwise).