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Hancock (8/10)

by Tony Medley

Hancock (Will Smith) is an unhappy superhero. Living like a homeless person, drunk on wine all the time, he saves people, but does so much damage in the process that he’s the most unpopular person in Los Angeles.

Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman) is an unsuccessful PR man who is trying to sell corporations to give their products away to make it a better world. Not hard to believe why this concept won’t sell. He’s married to Mary (Charlize Theron, who looks beautiful again; for a long time she hasn’t, what with “Monster” and “North Country”).

Hancock saves Ray’s life, so Ray invites him to dinner. Ray suggests that Hancock needs his services, so Ray tries to create a new image for Hancock, with consequences he never could have foreseen.

This starts out as a funny take on the superhero genre and slowly morphs into a pretty good, surprising story. Smith gives his usual tantalizing performance. He talked Theron into joining him in the film, their first pairing since “The Legend of Bagger Vance” (2000). His selling point? “He told me that this would give me an opportunity to be in a film that people would actually see,” laughs Theron (alluding to the aforementioned “Monster” and “North Country,” 1,515th and 2,406th, respectively on the all-time chart with grosses of $34.5 million and $18.3 million, respectively).

Good as Smith and Theron are, however, Bateman more than holds his own. I thought he was an unnoticed strength of “Juno,” but he got little credit what with the other strong performances. Here he is likely to be overlooked since he’s working with two of the best actors extant. But it can be argued that his performance goes a long way to creating the ambience of the film that makes it so appealing.

This is a different take on the superhero genre with an interesting, offbeat twist.

June 24, 2008