‘Hancock’: Will Smith is a box office hero

Wed, 07/09/2008 - 8:52am
By: Michael Boylan

When the summer movie season rolls around, you can almost guarantee there will be a Will Smith movie in your midst. Some are great and a few are terrible, but most are good or good enough to spend 90 minutes of your time with. His latest film, “Hancock,” is good enough. It starts off as a lighter version of “Bad Santa” as a superhero, then gets a little too serious at the end, but as summer blockbusters go, it is entertaining.

Smith’s Hancock is a foul-mouthed, alcoholic superhuman who causes more damage to the city than the criminals were causing. After he saves Ray Emery (Jason Bateman) from an on-coming train, the public relations wiz takes Hancock under his wing to fix his image and pretty soon Hancock is a well-liked hero again.

Then the movie takes a weird turn – not a Hancock-is-Tyler-Durden type turn – but a weird turn nonetheless. The change in plot and tone makes the second part of the film almost another film entirely. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s just not what you were expecting.

Smith does all the heavy lifting in the movie and does a great job. The film likely wouldn’t have worked with anyone else in the role. He plays surly and mean with just enough charm that you can’t help but root for him to become the good guy.

The supporting cast, particularly Bateman and Charlize Theron, who plays Emery’s wife, are also very good, but it is clearly Smith’s show and he runs with it. “Hancock” was directed by Peter Berg, who has been at the helm for some good movies – “The Rundown” and “Friday Night Lights” – and there are some terrific sequences in this movie, particularly a bank robbery/hostage scene after Hancock has reformed his persona.

I also think I spied him in a cameo role in a hospital scene late in the film, harkening back to his days on “Chicago Hope,” I guess.

Despite Hancock’s super strength and ability to fly, “Hancock” is not for little kids. It isn’t overly filthy with it’s language, but certain swear words are used frequently as punch lines.

Overall, I enjoyed “Hancock” because it dared to be something a little different. Could it have gone further as both a comedy and a superhero movie? Sure, but after a summer that has given us disappointments like “Zohan” and “The Love Guru,” I was happy to see Smith fly in and save the day.

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