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Hancock

In the world of superheroes, there’s a really good reason why you must keep your powers secret and only use them while wearing bright-colored pajamas: if your enemies ever found out who you really were, they could hurt the ones you love.    “With great power comes great responsibility,” Uncle Ben tells Peter Parker, and that adage seems to echo in every superhero’s head.   You must only use your powers to fight evil, defend the innocent, etc. etc.  It’s really too bad, because it’s fun to daydream about what one could do with the power without the responsibility: wouldn’t it be awesome to play mud football with Superman on your side?   The food fights at the Jedi Academy lunchroom must be absolutely epic.   And imagine Wolverine on “Iron Chef.”   Amazing.   

Those daydreams are where “Hancock” goes, and it goes there by taking care of one small problem all superheroes seem to have: friends and family.   Hancock (Will Smith) has none, and wants none.   Freed from worrying about what happens to anyone but himself, he can do whatever he wants.    He doesn’t fight bad guys to defend truth, justice, or the American Way, he does it because it’s always kind of fun to kick someone else’s hiney, if you can get away with it.   And Hancock can get away with anything.  He drinks, he cusses, he steals ice cream from children.   He stops robberies, rescues beached whales, inflicts massive damage to city property.  The world hates him, the world relies on him.   Life’s like that, I guess.  

One day, for no apparent reason, Hancock saves do-gooder Jason Bateman from a speeding train.   Naturally he makes a lot of people mad in the process; seems like everyone has an idea about how he could’ve done it better.   Hancock doesn’t care, but Bateman does; he’s a PR guy, and a powerless, inept do-gooder.   So Bateman decides to reform Hancock’s image, turn him into the hero he ought to be, the hero Bateman has always wanted to be.    

This is the first half of “Hancock,” and it’s by far the superior half.   Jason Bateman essentially brings his character from “Arrested Development” to the big screen here; he’s a guy who’s constantly spinning everything, always pretending like he’s in control and cool-headed, especially when things are two inches from Armageddon.   There is an awful lot of comic energy in this character; he’s fun to watch.    Smith is clearly having fun; after a series of overearnest, save the world roles, it must be nice to sit back and not care for once. 

Bateman is successful at overhauling Hancock’s image; it was surprisingly easy, really.   And that’s where the writers seem to have run out of ideas.   It would’ve been fun to see “Hancock” dig a little deeper, explore the cost of fame and adoration, consider the life of a guy who’s suddenly not allowed to make a wrong move.  Maybe develop some tension between him and Bateman… Instead, it devolves into an origin story, and not a particularly interesting one (actually, one that barely makes sense.)  It involves Charlize Theron, a knock on the head, and a really, really long history.   It culminates in a battle with nameless, uninteresting bad guys and Smith flying to the moon.  

“Hancock” comes out on DVD this week, and that’s a good thing.  Walking out of the theater, I still had the stale taste of the second half in my mouth, and didn’t like ”Hancock” much.   But the great thing about movies on DVD is that you can watch the good parts and skip the boring parts.    And the great thing about “Hancock” is that it’s so easy to separate the good parts from the bad parts.  I’ll be watching the first hour again, but not the second.  I’ve better things to do, and movies to watch.

 

Recommended

  • if the idea of an alcoholic, misanthropic superhero intrigues you.
  • If you’ve ever wondered what would happen if a superhero were set free from his obligations to Truth, Justice, etc.  
  • If you just really love origin stories, and always want to know where superhero came from. 
  • If you’re a Will Smith fan. 

Not Recommended

  • If you haven’t seen “Iron Man,” “The Dark Knight,” or “The Incredible Hulk” yet.  All better superhero movies. 
  • If you don’t think the world needs another alcoholic misanthrope, no matter how powerful or funny he is.
  • If you feel an underwhelming second half will outweigh a decent first half in your mind.

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