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:
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
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
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 . . .