"Hancock", or This Summer's Stop Gap between "Iron Man" and "The Dark Knight", the new film starring Will Smith, is a funny, fast-paced completely imperfect piece of cinematic fluff designed to help you while away a small piece of your summer at the multiplex. Will it be remembered as one of Smith's best? No. Will you enjoy the film? It will help you pass the time until "The Dark Knight" hits theaters.
Hancock (Smith) has superhero powers, but every time he gets involved with something, a lot of destruction happens due to his careless attitude, causing his public image to sink lower than W's current approval ratings. It doesn't help matters that he is always drinking and is openly hostile to everyone who approaches him. Hancock is a superhero with some problems. Passed out on a park bench, a little boy wakes him up and points to news coverage of a gang of gun-toting thugs speeding down a Los Angeles freeway, shooting at will at the cops in pursuit. A lot of innocent people are being hurt, cars crashing and the police aren't doing much good. Hancock groans and shoots off into the atmosphere, leaving a crater of destruction and crashing into a couple of things along the way. Soon, he catches up with the SUV and literally drops in to talk to the criminals, trying to get them to stop. When that doesn't work, he grabs the SUV and flings it onto the needle on top of the Capital Records building. A lot of people get upset at the destruction Hancock has caused despite putting an end to the deadly chase. On his way home from work, Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman), a public relations man with a grand scheme, finds himself in need of some help. Miraculously, Hancock arrives and provides assistance. Destructive assistance, but he saves Ray's life. Ray realizes Hancock needs some image rehabilitation and offers to help him out. He also invites him to dinner; he meets Ray's son, Aaron (Jae Head) and second wife, Mary (Charlize Theron). It is spaghetti and meatballs night, he doesn't want to miss that, Ray promises. Mary is a little put off by the alcoholic man who swears in front of their child. Ray convinces Hancock he needs his help as much as the city needs the reluctant superhero, so he agrees to Ray's plan for image rehabilitation. But as Hancock exiles himself to prison, the crime rate grows and the public outcry for his return grows just as a strange force begins to change his powers.
"Hancock" directed by Peter Berg ("The Kingdom", a popular TV actor) is not a perfect film. Far from it. There are a couple of plot holes Hancock couldn't jump across despite his superpowers and one scene seems particularly superfluous and a lame excuse to spend some special effects budget. But it is a fun, lighthearted piece of fluff.
From the moment we meet Hancock, we realize he will be a challenge. Happier with a bottle of alcohol handy (when he wakes up, he grabs one from a waiting carton which holds still more bottles) he rushes off to help. The real fun in Hancock comes from his interactions with the public. Smith lets loose and his character says whatever he is thinking, whenever he wants, frequently offending people and many bystanders gather around him. This leads to a real love/ hate relationship between Hancock and the public. Which in turn further fuels his mixed feelings about helping the public.
Smith is absolutely the right choice to play this role. He may be the only choice who could successfully pull off the character. Surly, drunk and ready to voice his opinions, he is initially reluctant to do anything. Whenever he does, he knows something will go wrong and he will be blamed for a lot of damage. So he is a bit reluctant to use his super powers. Yet, he finds people expect him to help even though they know something will go wrong. Causing him to feels he is in a bit of a conundrum. And the public can't understand why he doesn't make the RIGHT choice when he decides to help.
Smith, who has become known as Mr. Fourth of July due to the string of hits he has appeared in, all of which were released on the holiday weekend, "Independence Day", "Men In Black", "MIB II", "Hancock" and others, brings the right blend of humor, confusion and anger to the role. As he gets upset with the constant nagging of the public, he lets the insults fly and isn't afraid of stating exactly what is on his mind. When he meets Ray, the PR man tries to explain to him, to convince him, why Hancock needs his services. And some of what he says seems to sink in. Hancock starts to realize that he could use a bit of an image makeover, he isn't happy and a large part of that is due to the constant bickering with the public at large. Why don't they like him? He saves so many lives? He decides he wants to become more liked within the community as he tries to help keep the bad guys in check.
This leads Ray to propose a radical plan and he urges Hancock to go through with it. Sure enough, Ray's predictions come true and the city soon calls on Hancock to help them out.
Jason Bateman plays Ray, who we first meet proposing a radical new image campaign to a pharmaceutical company. The guy's plans are ambitious, but we can't fault him because he is trying to do some good in the world. After Hancock helps him escape a potentially dangerous situation, Ray realizes he may have met just the person he needs to get the idea off the ground. If he can change Hancock's image for the better, he will become much more attractive to other companies. And his plan will be that much easier to sell.
So he sets out on his toughest assignment yet. And he brings Hancock home to meet his son and wife.
Bateman is very good. Funny, low key and charming, it is easy to see why Charlize Theron's Mary fell for him and why he is trying to change the world with his new image campaign.
Charlize Theron plays Mary, Ray's second wife who clearly seems to love and adore her husband. When she first meets Hancock, she regards him with some hostility; he brings a bottle of whisky to their dinner table and openly drinks in front of them, not bothering to hide his drunken state. And Mary is very worried about how Hancock might affect her husband's business. So she doesn't warm up to him right away.
Charlize Theron is good in the film, but this is basically a supporting role, so it seems strange to see the Oscar winning actress playing the part. I suspect she took the role for the challenges involved and also because the opportunity to appear in a big budget summer release doesn't come every day.
While the three actors are good, there are some plot holes, which threaten to derail the entire film. First, the filmmakers tip their hand to a 'secret' far too early. As soon as they start to shoot hints at this, your mind starts to race and you try to figure it out. When your mind starts racing, it comes up with a bunch of scenarios, and unfortunately, most of these are more believable than what happens in the actual film. So this becomes a bit anticlimactic. That's what is really going on?
There is also a battle between Smith's Hancock and another character in the middle of Hollywood Boulevard. Okay. Sure. They have to fight somewhere. But what makes less sense is when clouds start to roll in and wind and tornadoes and lightning start to appear. Does this freakish weather have come connection to the battle? If so, it is never explained. Honestly, I felt like the filmmakers wanted to add mayhem to the scene to help cover up any bad CGI work. Let's make everything dark and throw a lot of dust into the picture. That way, if we don't have the best CGI, it will be harder to tell.
But what the film gets right is enough to make it enjoyable. It is fun to watch Hancock interact with Ray and his family, and enjoy this slice of domestic bliss. Because it is a stark contrast to his actual life, filled with animosity directed at him from the public at large. And this is fun to watch as well; because it is behavior is so unlike what we are used to in a super hero.
"Hancock" is an enjoyable piece of cinematic fluff that will soon be forgotten as soon as "The Dark Knight" sweeps into theaters across the country.