Posted: 07/07/2008




by Laura Tucker

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Hancock gives a unique spin on the lifestyle of a superhero. Normally, the superhero and the mortal from which they turn are milquetoast do-gooders, but Will Smith puts a very different spin on his superhero, Hancock. So much so that once the film switches gears and returns to that of a usual superhero film, it loses something.

The film does a great job with the first scene, setting us up to see this is quite a different kind of superhero. Hancock is awakened by a kid as he sleeps on a park bench, knit hat pulled over his eyes, several days’ worth of stubble on his chin and a bottle of booze close at hand. Alerted to the fact that there’s trouble on the freeway, he does a farmer’s blow and takes off, flying in the air to the scene of the crime, with his bottle still close at hand. Instead of calmly stopping the car of young Japanese men, Hancock causes such a disturbance he sets other car wrecks in motion. The Japanese men tell him to “Beat it, Soulja Boy,” which only makes Hancock angrier. He picks up the car, still holding the guys, then impales it on a tall, spiky building, causing $9 million worth of damage by the time he’s done.

Jason Bateman plays Ray Embrey, the “Bono of PR,” who looks to sell an image he has of the “AllHeart” charity, but he doesn’t meet with much success. He ends up getting saved by Hancock, and while everyone else is blaming Hancock for yet more disruption, Ray wants to help him in any way he can for saving his life. While Ray’s son is thrilled beyond words to have the superhero in his home, Ray’s wife, Mary (Charlize Theron), is less than thrilled.

Ray devises a scheme to put his PR to good use, changing Hancock’s image. He makes Hancock apologize for all his wrongdoing and enter jail to make it up to the law and society as a whole. The humor of the film comes into play a lot during his prison stay, especially when he’s forced to join a therapy group; while the other guys are all discussing that while breaking necks is easy, the tough thing is to look at themselves in the mirror, Hancock just keeps passing when it comes to his turn.

Once Hancock is released from prison, Ray puts a plan into effect, changing Hancock’s public image, keeping him from ruining things when he saves people, wearing a special superhero suit, shaving, etc. And in the process, the uniqueness of this film gives way to typical superhero fare, as we find out Hancock isn’t the only one. There are more like him with similar abilities. While the film is still big on action after this, it just loses that smile you had forming in the corner of your mouth.

Hancock ends with a good message, but again, don’t all superhero movies? Written by a relatively newer writer, Vincent Ngo, and a television writer, Vince Gilligan, maybe that’s all they had in them, just a one-hour show that doesn’t end and will be continued next week. Will Smith and Jason Batemen do well throughout the film, but Charlize Theron didn’t seem to be given a whole lot to work with.

Like all superhero movies, Hancock ends in a way suggesting a sequel could be on its way, and by this point in the film, we wouldn’t mind it, but 90 to 120 minutes of typical superhero might not be enough to sustain the film. I think he’d have to go back to being an atypical superhero for it to ever work again.

Laura Tucker is a freelance writer providing reviews of movies and television, among other things, at Viewpoints and Reality Shack, and operates a celebrity gossip blog, Troubled Hollywood. She is also an Associate Instructor and 1st dan black belt in tae kwon do with South Elgin Martial Arts.

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