Review: An odd kind of hero

I’d like to see a sequel to “Hancock.” Here’s a movie filled with bright ideas, crammed uncomfortably into a story burdened by confusing and often contradictory exposition. It begins as a comedy and ends rather unexpectedly with a flourish of melodrama, but it’s never dull.

Messy? Very, but not without the kind of promise a more clearheaded sequel might realize.

Will Smith has boldly predicted that it will be his biggest film to date, but I’m not so sure. He’s given stronger performances in better movies — “Men in Black” and “I Am Legend” come to mind — but perhaps during a summer filled with familiar superheroes, audiences might spring for a fresh alternative: Hancock, a boozed-up, super-strong crime fighter exorcising his demons all too publicly in the streets of Los Angeles.

We know that Hancock has demons because he’s never without a bottle, though he never seems drunk so much as surly. He sports a perpetual 7 o’clock shadow; and he curses in front of children.

Those hoping for a darker portrayal of a hero in the grip of alcoholism (which might have given the superhuman character an intriguingly human vulnerability) would do better to follow the “Iron Man” saga.

As it is, Hancock’s boorishness is played mostly for laughs, some of them dubious. After carelessly tossing an SUV atop the Capitol Records Building, he threatens to beat up a disapproving old lady. (Ho, ho, ho.)

Elsewhere, the comedy is sharper, but the tone remains the same. “Hancock” begins not as a character study or even a plausible adventure as much as a slapstick farce in which Smith, regrettably, is called upon to cram one man’s head up another man’s … well, you get the idea.

Hancock is probably the last guy on Earth who’d agree to an image makeover, but he sure could use one. Enter PR guru Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman), who believes his lifelong dream of saving the world is intertwined with the fate of its most notorious lush.

Civility proves a tough lesson to learn for a man accustomed to liquid lunches and occasional dust-ups with children, but Hancock reluctantly goes along with the plan. Even the most cantankerous heroes crave acceptance, it seems.

“Hancock” is filled with unexpected twists. Some work, while others feel arbitrary and clumsily conceived. Early on, the movie establishes itself as an aggressively silly genre satire in the same vein as “My Super Ex-Girlfriend,” but it ends, unconvincingly, as what aspires to be drama.

Why, after an hour of pratfalls, try to reinvent Hancock as a somber second coming of the Caped Crusader? I like the idea of a disgraced superhero struggling to rehabilitate his image.

It’s a terrific premise that lends itself to either comedy or drama, but “Hancock” wants to have it both ways. In the end, it’s a movie ripe with possibility, but whose reach far exceeds its grasp.

CREDITS

Hancock (2 and a half stars)

Starring Will Smith, Charlize Theron, Jason Bateman, Jae Head, Eddie Marsan

Written by Vincent Ngo, Vince Gilligan

Directed by Peter Berg

Rated PG-13

Running time 1 hour 32 minutes

artsentertainmentOther Arts

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

School board members Gabriela Lopez (left) and Alison Collins (right) say they have been the subject of frequent hateful, racist and sexist attacks during their time on the school board. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F Examiner)
Angered by Lowell decision, SFUSD grad targets school board members with violent imagery

Facebook page depicts two women of color on board with swastikas and x-marks on their faces

Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer, a former school board member, said it was ‘ridiculous’ that the school district did not yet have a plan to reopen. <ins>(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
Supervisors demand SFUSD set a timeline for reopening

Pressure grows on district to resume in-person learning as The City’s COVID-19 case count goes down

“Tenet,” the new Christopher Nolan film starring John David Washington, is showing at the drive-in in Concord. (Courtesy Warner Bros.)
Drive-ins are popping up all over the Bay Area

There are pandemic-era options for movie lovers who want to watch outdoors

The San Francisco International Arts Festival will present performances this weekend outdoors at Fort Mason, including on the Parade Ground, Eucalyptus Grove and Black Point Battery. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SF International Arts Festival wins health department approval for weekend performances

Rules allow no more than 50 people at outdoor Fort Mason performances

In this handout image provided by the California Department of Corrections, convicted murderer Scott Peterson poses for a mug shot March 17, 2005 in San Quentin, California. Judge Alfred A. Delucchi sentenced Peterson to death March 16 for murdering his wife, Laci Peterson, and their unborn child. (California Department of Corrections via Getty Images/TNS)
Prosecutors to retry penalty phase of Scott Peterson trial

2003 discovery of Laci Peterson’s body led to sensational high-profile murder trial of husband

Most Read