Once upon a time, Will Smith ruled Fourth of July weekend with movies like “Independence Day” and “Men in Black.” But while this year’s entry, “Hancock,” may pique momentary interest, it’s one of his worst, like “Wild, Wild West.”
The sly comedic premise is promising: Smith plays ‘John Hancock,’ a whiskey-guzzling, profanity-spewing, grudging superhero who causes nothing but chaos whenever he catches culprits in Los Angeles – and then he saves Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman), an earnest public-relations consultant. Realizing that the destructively reckless Hancock, who looks like a derelict, desperately needs an image make-over, Ray tackles the job.
“Landing is your superhero handshake,” he begins. “Don’t come in too hot, don’t come in too boozy, and don’t land on the $100,000 Mercedes.”
Invincible but not intractable, Hancock is willing to run the hazardous anger-management course but it’s obvious during the Embrey family’s traditional Thursday spaghetti-and-meatballs supper that Ray’s wife Mary (Charlize Theron) wants nothing to do with him. The tension between them and her obvious hostility suggests a backstory which, when revealed, is so mind-boggling, muddled and misguided that it makes little sense and undermines the logic and coherence of the rest of the concept, including the introduction of an irrelevant villain.
Writers Vy Vincent Ngo and Vince Gilligan never really develop the origins of Hancock’s character, and director Peter Berg (“The Kingdom”) relies far too much on jittery hand-held camerawork, intense close-ups and fast cutting which generate a kinetic quality that seriously undermines the story.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Hancock” is a frenetic, unfulfilling, forgettable 5. Even Will Smith looks uncharacteristically uncomfortable, although – as star and producer – one would assume he had veto power over the many misguided choices that were made on this $150 million misfire.