Is there anything Will Smith does that America doesn't want to see? I swear, this guy could fart on film for two hours and it would gross $100 million. Now, I'm not dissing Smith -- I think he is a fine comedic actor, and perhaps one of the least obnoxious comedians working today. He has a warm, likable quality that seems to appeal to all genders and demographics, which is rare in this day and age when it seems America's tastes are becoming even more compartmentalized and niche-oriented. But when he can propel a comedy as perfunctory as 'Hitch' to a $150 million-plus gross, I wonder if he has some magical ability to blind people to what they are actually seeing on the screen.
Smith plays Hitch, a "date doctor" who engineers complex set-ups in order to give men the chance they need to meet women. Think "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" meets "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" -- Hitch teaches his paying charges how to speak, dress and act, then he stages a clever scenario that forces them to "bump into" the woman of their dreams in some cute way (and ensuring that the man has the romantic edge). But then Hitch meets his greatest challenge in Albert Brennaman (Kevin James), who is hopelessly in love with his boss, society heiress Allegra Cole (Amber Valletta). Albert is a total zero. He's awkward, overweight, a bit slobbery, and he certainly can't dance. But Hitch has never met a man he couldn't hook up. Or so he thinks...
'Hitch' is a cute idea for a movie. Of course, it is totally predictable, too. We know the minute we meet Hitch onscreen that he's an expert at making love connections for every guy but himself. So we're hardly surprised when Hitch's grooming of Albert will begin to conversely parallel his own growing attraction to Sara Melas (Eva Mendes), a gossip reporter that's secretly on his trail after one of her friends gets her heart broken by a client of Hitch. How much do you wanna bet that as Albert grows more confident, Hitch will start to lose his cool when faced with a woman he can't manipulate into loving him?
But a movie like 'Hitch' isn't about the plot anyway. It is all about the chemistry of its cast, and Smith again proves here why he is so bankable. We truly like this guy, we want to see him have another success story with Albert, and we want to see him fall in love. Smith also bounces off well with James, who here displays much better comedic timing than on his TV show "The King of Queens." Sure, these are two total caricatures, but they manage to infuse the cliches and the conventions of the scenario with a genuine freshness. Indeed, James and especially Smith are the only things keeping 'Hitch' from blowing away like a feather.
Sigh. 'Hitch' is another strikeout for Blu-ray, with a subpar transfer that I really expected to be a lot better. Following such fair-to-dreadful discs as 'The Fifth Element,' 'xXx' and '50 First Dates,' I'm really getting a bit discouraged with Sony's first wave of Blu-ray titles.
The most noticeable drawback to this presentation is its softness. I've seen over-the-air HD broadcasts that look sharper, and I expect a more detailed image from a pre-recorded format. The source print, while clean from major defects, does exhibit what looks like fine film grain throughout. Though this would be perfectly fine, upon closer inspection there is some noise clearly visible, with the film's many daytime exteriors look a bit fuzzy and blocky in the skies and other solid patches of color. Otherwise, saturation is pretty good. Though the film does look rather washed out, this was also a quality of the standard-def release so it may be more of an aesthetic choice on behalf of the filmmakers. At least fleshtones are generally accurate.
Also disappointing is the lack of depth and detail to the image. The film looks flat, again more akin to a standard-def transfer than HD. Contrast lacks pop, with whites sometimes blooming slightly even though midrange looks dull and muted. Blacks are solid, but it is of little help when the picture is so lacking in spark. Though the cleanliness of the source material here isn't not as poor as, say, 'The Fifth Element,' this is still down there with the worst Blu-ray discs I've seen thus far.
(Note: As originally reported by The Digital Bits, some users have experienced poor image quality when viewing Blu-ray discs on the Samsung first-generation BD-P1000 Blu-ray disc player when connected via the deck's HDMI output. Apparently these problems, including decreased resolution and diluted color reproduction, are largely corrected when switching to the BD-P1000's component outputs.
It has also been confirmed that both Samsung and Sony are now aware of the issue, and the problem most likely stems from a faulty internal scaler chip in the BD-P1000. Samsung is reportedly working to fix the problem on future shipments of the unit, and also plans to issue a firmware upgrade to correct the problem on current players.
When assessing the transfer of any Blu-ray or HD DVD disc title, we here at High-Def Digest always compare the HDMI versus component output on every disc to detect any depreciable differences in image quality, as well as to confirm whether or not the Image Constraint Token (ICT) has been activated on a particular disc title or not (which would down-convert the component output's resolution to standard DVD quality).
If and when Samsung makes an official announcement of a firmware upgrade that corrects the problem with the BD-P1000's HDMI output, all of our Blu-ray reviews here at High-Def Digest will be revisited to reassess picture quality. In light of the continuing problems with the Samsung, and given the fact that it is currently the only Blu-ray player available on the consumer market, some readers may wish to reserve judgment on this or any Blu-ray title until picture quality can be reassessed.)
Somewhat better than the video, Sony presents 'Hitch' in uncompressed PCM 5.1 surround, and it sounds fine. Largely a dialogue-driven film, the majority of the mix is front heavy, but there is some noticeable envelopment during select scenes. Livelier moments exhibit some nice directional effects in the rears, with the film's music and songs coming off the best. Atmospherics aside, dynamic range is also very good, with the mix sounding full-bodied across the entire frequency range, and low bass strong and punchy. This mix won't win any awards, but for a romantic comedy it works just fine.
Another weird mishmash of supplements from Sony. Though the standard DVD release of 'Hitch' included a batch of deleted scenes, some making-of featurettes, a music video and the film's original theatrical trailer, Sony has included only the most insipid of those extras on this Blu-ray release.
Two featurettes are included here, both throwaways. "The Dating Experts" is rather dumb, with some talking heads telling us that Will Smith's dating advice in the film is actually right-on. This might have been a better featurette had these experts -- as well as the film's cast and crew -- talked at a greater depth about the world of "dating doctors," but instead we get fluff. Same with "Dance Steps Made An Easy," a cute if slight piece with star Kevin James improvising all those amazingly bad dance moves he performs in the movie.
The only other extra is a five-minute Gag Reel, but unfortunately it is not very funny. Mostly endless shots of the actors flubbing lines or swearing, it quickly gets monotonous. It is hard to imagine there weren't other, funnier bits with Smith left on the cutting room floor.
'Hitch' is a cute, inoffensive date movie, but also pretty unmemorable. Unfortunately, it is even more unmemorable on Blu-ray. The poor transfer is surprising, and though the soundtrack is fine, the weak package of extras seals the deal. I wish I didn't have to keep dogging all these first Blu-ray releases, but it is hard to come to any other conclusion when the value for money offered here is so disappointing.