With his goofy good looks and natural charisma to spare, Will Smith should be a no-brainer for the rom-com genre. However, in over 25 years as a major movie star, Hitch is his only real foray into the genre to date.
Why is this? It’s possible that as an actor he simply prefers other genres, but he has also spoken publicly about the reluctance of studios to pair him with the predominantly white female stars of the genre, while the prospect of two black rom-com leads was perceived to be too niche to appeal to a mainstream audience.
Whatever the reason, Hitch – which solved the race ‘problem’ by casting Cuban-American actress Eva Mendes as the primary love interest – stands as an interesting outlier in Smith’s filmography. Its performance certainly didn’t do anything to harm his rom-com lead credentials – the film was a massive box office success, grossing over $371 million against a $50 million budget. As a minor milestone in progressive cinema, that merits respect.
As an actual film, Hitch is a little more problematic. The concept of incel culture wasn’t really a thing in 2005, but from a 2020 perspective the film flirts dangerously close to endorsing some fairly toxic attitudes, with Smith’s character using various means of deception to help lonely guys to secure dates with attractive, usually much younger women.
That being said, the film essentially has its heart in the right place, and as always Smith’s ample charm manages to paper over most of the cracks. Eva Mendes gets a rare opportunity to flex her comic muscles as the cynical gossip columnist who wins his heart, and even Kevin James manages to make the most potentially creepy character in the film somewhat sympathetic.
In this week’s podcast, we discuss single-shaming, Fresh Prince flashbacks, disappearing best friends and much more as we unpack the plot, plus drinking games, listener submissions and sequel pitches galore!
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Next week, we’ll be continuing our Summer of Smith with a thoughtful post-apocalyptic drama that’s much more representative of his usual wheelhouse. Until then, happy listening and remember – no means no!