Will Smith as Alcoholic Superhero in Need of AA and a New Image
John Hancock (Will Smith) is a superhero who has fallen out of favor with the public, and for good reason. First of all, he can usually be found passed out with a bottle of whiskey in his hand, draped across a bench in downtown L.A. He routinely antagonizes pedestrians, behaving no differently than a typical bum living on Skid Row, whether cursing curious little kids for waking him or trying to molest attractive women as they pass by.
And when he springs into action as his crime-fighting alter ego, Hancock tends to cause more trouble than he’s preventing. For instance, there’s the time he drunkenly intervened during a televised police freeway chase (reminiscent of O.J.’s) and overreacted after the abusive Cholos inside the white SUV called him an “a-hole.”
The epithet makes him lose his temper the way the Three Stooges did whenever they heard “Niagara Falls.” So, he impaled their auto on the spire high atop the Capitol Records building, ruining one of the skyline’s most recognizable landmarks in the process.
The cleanup of that messy arrest cost the city $9 million, prompting the fed-up chief of police (Greg Daniel) to urge the disgraced superhero to leave town. Just as Hancock hits rock bottom he is offered a chance at redemption by Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman), a man he rescues from a car sitting on the train tracks at a railroad crossing and about to be slammed by a locomotive with a full head of steam.
Grateful Ray just happens to be a public relations expert who diagnoses that all his well-meaning savior really needs is an image overhaul. So, he brings Hancock home to meet his wife (Charlize Theron) and young son (Jae Head), before convincing him to try alcohol and anger management counseling, and to don a superhero outfit, so that he can at least look the part.
The trouble is Hancock has a very big secret, which if divulged here, would entirely spoil the picture for the reader. Suffice to say that he’s suffering from amnesia, so he himself is initially unaware of the rabbit about to be pulled out of the hat.
In a summer blockbuster season boasting several spectacular comic book adaptations in Iron Man, The Hulk and Wanted, the last thing we need is a spoof of the superhero genre so unpleasant and unfocused. The fatal flaw is the fact that the protagonist isn’t even likable.
Who would opt to cast the ever-charming French Prince against type as a surly, foul-mouthed misanthrope? Nobody wants to root for an a-hole (there I called him one, too) who refers to women by the b-word, bullies children and makes a pass at the spouse of the only guy willing to help him.
Equally-annoying is the awkward, improbable and terribly twisted plotline which can only be comprehended with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight once all the pieces of the puzzle have finally been revealed. I’m not even sure how I would explain the resolution to an inquiring child incapable of such contorted mental calisthenics.
For better or worse, Will Smith is a name long associated with July 4th blockbusters. Unfortunately, Hancock is more on the order of Wild Wild West, than Independence Day or Men in Black. Don’t expect to laugh more than five times and you won’t be disappointed.
Fair (1 star)
Rated PG-13 for profanity and sci-fi violence.
Movie Running time: 92 minutes
Studio: Columbia Pictures
DVD Running time: 102 minutes
DVD Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Extras: Five featurettes.
See the Hancock trailer