I’ve seen too many preposterous films, but I cannot recall one that turned south with such annoying abruptness.
Case in point: “Hancock,” which speeds into action and then, without warning, falls from a cliff and lands in a ravine of silly, sticky, irretrievable despair. From that point on, the goose is cooked, done for. It’s as if the creators and actors moaned in unison that “We don’t know what to do with this $150 million project. Let’s just get it over with.”
What are we to make of Will Smith, who has amassed enough good will to demand finer, more accomplished material? He must know what a mess his movie is, and you would think that with his bankroll, he could pound down his fists and more than request revisions.
His only excuse may be that he was so enamored of the initial idea, so smitten with the notion of a superhero totally lacking in people skills, that he lost his head. Maybe Smith was so excited that he forgot to read the last half of the script before he signed his contract.
DIRECTED BY Peter Berg
SCREENPLAY BY Vincent Ngo and Vince Gilligan
STARRING Will Smith, Charlize Theron and Jason Bateman
RUNNING TIME: 92 minutes
When we meet Hancock, he’s a homeless boozer on a bench, awakening from a mighty hangover. Once roused, he leaps over countless city buildings, coming to the rescue, foiling a criminal act, and with bullets ricocheting off his impenetrable bosom, Hancock once more saves the day, but not without inflicting millions in damages.
The guy is crass, amoral, totally insensitive. Authorities are outraged at his disregard for mortals and steeple tops that stand in his way. He cusses with the best of them, and when someone sticks him with an insult, implying that his brains are located where the sun does not shine, Hancock will stick the offender’s head in an appropriate place. It all comes this close to R-rated shenanigans. This close!
Give “Hancock” this much: It’s funny up to a point, even potentially ingenious. The idea of a klutzy superhero with all the grace of a bull in a china shop is a promising comic concept further aided by the presence of Ray (Jason Bateman), an altruistic public relations fellow married to Mary, played by Charlize Theron.
It’s Ray who takes on Hancock as a reclamation project, teaching him to say “Thank You” to the cops, successfully urging him go to jail in order to atone for his wanton destruction of property.
Here is where the movie begins its descent into stupidity. Why does a hero go to a place from which he can escape with a single bound? Knowing Hancock is invincible, why do convicts try to pick a fight with him? Where are the D.A. and other authorities in all of this?
Then, in a development I cannot divulge, “Hancock” goes haywire with a revelation. Here, other questions arise, all demanding plausible details. This is the point at which the movie falls from a cliff. For the creators, the shortcuts amount to a precipitous surrender to the mundane and inexplicably trite. I take it back: terming it a mess is to pay the alleged comedy an undeserved compliment.
Belying the hype
Without Smith and its CGI budget, “Hancock’s” failure could be dismissed as small, forgettable fantasy. But coming with all the advertising hoopla centering on the appearance of America’s premier movie star, this nature of this debacle is glaring.
As but one indication of its descent into crass commercialism, witness a product-placing moment in which Theron dismisses a Hancock house wreck by declaring in all seriousness, “It’s all right. State Farm will take care of it.”
Have they no shame?