Hancock (Rated PG-13) 4 stars

    Director Peter Berg clearly knows a good thing when he sees it, and Will Smith attached to a big budget summer movie is a good thing. The concept of Hancock (92 minutes) is filled with potential. Unfortunately, screenwriters Vincent Ngo and Vince Gilligan can’t handle the material. The film’s first half is a clear winner, making excellent use of Smith’s acting, but the story defaults on its early promise by descending into an unnecessarily complicated back story about halfway through. Perhaps this would have been forgivable, but the writers are unable to maintain any internal consistency to their superhero mythos, letting the important details fall aside unexplained in the name of plot convenience.
    John Hancock (Will Smith) is a reluctant superhero, drinking heavily and dressed like a bum. He lives in Los Angeles, but the city is tired of footing the bill for his super destructive rescues. One of the people he rescues is Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman), a public relations guy who promises to change Hancock’s image. Mary Embrey (Charlize Theron) is concerned about Hancock from the start, and she tries to keep him at a distance. Their son Aaron (Jae Head), on the other hand, is a big fan of the hero, thus fulfilling the cute kid quotient of the film. As part of rehabilitating his image, Ray convinces Hancock to spend some time in prison, but eventually he is released in order to help the police during a bank robbery. During his rescue of the hostages in the bank, Hancock faces off against Red (Eddie Marsan), who reappears during the climax of the movie.  {mosimage}
    Yes, there is a twist about halfway through the movie. No, it is not the greatest surprise in the world considering how the director manages to telegraph the twist within minutes of getting all his main actors together in one scene. Sadly for the movie, the twist is handled badly and borders on nonsensical, not only lacking internal consistency, but also endowed with plot holes big enough to drive the Batmobile through. While the acting was skilled, the story was poorly realized. Even more irritating, director Peter Berg apparently specializes in the extreme close up, forcing the audience to practically look up the noses of the characters. And the villain! Dennis Hopper was the reigning champion of scenery chewing (evil villain in such underappreciated gems as Waterworld and Speed), until Marsan came along with his bad impression of Rutger Hauer’s famous Blade Runner monologue.
    So, with all these complaints and caveats, how did Hancock manage to score an impressive four star rating?
The sheer likeability of leads Smith, Theron and Bateman managed to outweigh the utter irritability of child actor Head and laughable nemesis Marsan. While it is undeniable that the dialogue is ripe and moldy, the effects are nice, and the film perfectly cast. While watching the movie, the charisma of those involved makes it easy to ignore all the flaws, which is probably why the film is being critically reviled but still generating impressive box office receipts. See this one soon before your friends spoil the twist, and stick around after the credits start to see an extra scene.


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