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Not Your Average Superhero
by Matt Forsman on Jul 04, 2008
Superheroes don’t have it easy. Constantly asked to save the day, rescue kittens from trees, and foil nefarious villains day in and day out can take a toll. Being nearly invincible is certainly a blessing, but can any mere mortal truly understand the burden of being called upon whenever something goes wrong? Hancock (Will Smith) understands this burden all too well given that he loosely falls into the category of "superhero". Albeit, the method in which Hancock saves the day isn’t always quite so "heroic".
Most of Hancock’s heroics are performed in at least a vaguely inebriated state which usually means there’s a reasonable amount of collateral damage in the general vicinity anytime Hancock deigns to make an appearance. Setting aside Hancock’s alcoholic (and destructive) tendencies, he doesn’t exactly have the sweetest disposition and has no qualms letting his not so adoring public know exactly what he thinks of them. Hancock is burned out, washed up, and the public has had it with him. At long last, the LAPD finally issues a warrant for his arrest.
Enter floundering PR executive Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman) who crosses paths with Hancock when Hancock moves his car (in a typically destructive manner) out of the way of an oncoming train. Embrey sees an opportunity for himself and for the out of favor hero to turn over a new leaf. While Hancock isn’t necessarily buying into the image makeover entirely, Ray’s the first person in awhile to express any kind of interest in connecting with Hancock. Thus begins one of the most radical (and comical) image transformations ever.
Will Smith effectively owns the film when he’s onscreen. Smith embodies the mental fatigue and frustration of constantly being asked to serve those weaker, smaller, and less powerful than him. Perpetually unshaven, unkempt, and always nursing a brutal hangover, Smith plays Hancock with an attitude and a swagger that never fails to elicit laughter. For anyone who’s ever been burned out in the office, you can’t help but relish Hancock’s disdain for the job he’s just tired of.
Jason Bateman who’s had a career renaissance since "Arrested Development" is charming and likable from the get go as Ray Embrey. Yes, Ray’s a PR guy, but his interest is saving the world. How appropriate that he takes on a client like Hancock who’s sick and tired of being burdened with this very responsibility. Bateman brings a warmth and charm to Ray that’s impossible to dislike. He genuinely wants Hancock to become the hero he can be.
Hancock is a solidly humorous and entertaining film for the first hour or so of the film. There are a myriad of laugh out loud moments involving Hancock’s irresponsible acts of heroism and sharp tongue. Given the glut of films released the past few years rife with costumed do gooders saving humanity, it’s refreshing in some respects to see a superhero who’s burned out, jaded, and doesn’t really seem to care much about anything.
Where the film drags a bit is right around the time Hancock starts to turn over a new leaf and some revelations about who he is comes to light. The film becomes less humorous and more philosophical (in a slightly heavyhanded way). This shift in tone is a bit awkward and jarring given the first half of the film. While it doesn’t completely derail the film, it’s noticeable.
However, Hancock is unarguably one of the funnier and more creative films released this summer. Amidst the vast number of remakes, retreads, sequels, etc., it’s nice to see some original material see the light of day. If you’re looking for a departure from typical superhero fare, Hancock is about as good as it gets.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
by Matt Forsman on Jul 04, 2008
images courtesy of Sony Pictures
Will Smith as Hancock and Jason Bateman as Ray
Charlize Theron as Mary Embrey and Jason Bateman as Ray Embrey