MOVIE REVIEW- Derailed: 'Hancock' so good 'til it goes bad
There are so many different movies in Hancock it's like spending a day at a film festival, only much shorter. Hancock runs only 93 minutes, really brief for a Will Smith Fourth of July blockbuster, even though it feels much longer.
John Hancock (Smith) is L.A.'s resident superhero, but he lacks social skills and has an image problem. He has no alter ego, he's just Hancock 24/7– sloppy, alcoholic, derelict Hancock, who lives in what looks like a double-wide lean-to. Not only does he make a mess preventing crime and apprehending bad guys (to the tune of $9 million in collateral damage for his latest escapade), but even his takeoffs and landings leave potholes in their wake.
Hancock does cool stuff like flying, picking up trucks with one hand, stopping a locomotive with his body (definitely some neat effects here) and having bullets bounce off him, but he takes all the credit for the good stuff and none of the responsibility for the bad. He ignores all subpoenas calling him to answer for the damage he's caused, and the city is starting to think the cure is worse than the disease. Even little kids call him an a**hole, which infuriates him.
"I'm not the most charming guy in the world," Hancock admits at one point, just so you know Smith is acting.
Fate crosses Hancock's path with that of Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman), a public relations guy who's trying to save the world by asking corporations to give something back. He's working up to oil companies by starting small with pharmaceuticals. Needless to say it's not going well.
Before you can say "Embrey-oh!" "the Bono of PR" gets an idea he can help Hancock, since friends don't let superheroes fly drunk, and invites him to dinner with his wife, Mary (Charlize Theron), and son, Aaron (Jae Head).
As soon as Mary looks at Hancock, the movie takes a turn for the worse. There's not going to be a sex thing between them, is there? That would be wrong in so many ways. But director Peter Berg lets the sexual tension mount for half an hour or more before we find out what's really going on and Hancock becomes yet another movie.
In the meantime Ray convinces Hancock to turn himself in and do some prison time, knowing he'll be released as soon as Los Angeles realizes it can't do without him on the outside. While he's in, he makes good on his standard threat of jamming one man's head up another's ass (what can't you do with a PG-13 rating anymore?) and refuses to share in group therapy until he finally makes a breakthrough of sorts. The seriousness of the therapy scenes, brief as they are, is a warmup for things to come.
There's a lot of seriousness in the final half hour as Hancock faces identity issues and other existential crises. It's as if Woody Allen had shifted into his Ingmar Bergman mode in the middle of one of his comedies. The climactic sequence would probably be confusing as hell if it were worth thinking about. There's a nice, warm comedic touch at the end, but even then well enough can't be left alone.
For a semi-epic, Hancock has an enormous number of closeups, many shot with a hand-held camera that makes them hard to watch. It's not a great-looking movie at its best. At least it's different, but that's only a good thing until it becomes different in a bad way.
It's an Embrey family tradition that Mary cooks spaghetti every Thursday night. She probably throws it against the wall to see if it sticks, which pretty much sums up how Hancock was made.