There will be nothing below this first line of text.
Surprise! A cunning trick: there were more words. That there is the Internet version of the movie twist, an innovation I just pioneered and which, I am certain, will amount to such a large royalty check for me I'll be able to retroactively retire three years ago. So long, suckers!
Well, turns out I'm still poor. You would think after the last several years of constant exposure to crummy movie twists I'd understand how hard it is to pull one off, but you'd be wrong. That's why with a movie like Hancock — decent but unspectacular, but with a twist that actually adds something to the movie — the temptation is to be overly impressed. Fortunately, I am utterly immune to temptations of all kinds, and no number of Tijuana brothels named after me can prove that claim wrong.
In Hancock, Will Smith is the world's only superhero, but he's not exactly beloved. Drunk and antisocial, his crimefighting regularly causes millions in damage to the city of L.A., whose citizens just about all wish he'd move somewhere else.
Meanwhile, Jason Bateman is a fantastic creature of a different kind: a public relations man who wants to do good in the world. When Smith saves his life (derailing a train in the process), Bateman comes up with a plan to win the public's favor. Let the city arrest Smith for the damage he's done. Let them remember how bad crime was before him. And in the meantime, try not to be such a jerk all the time.
That's how the first chunk of Hancock plays out, and that's what the ads made it look like it'd be about — Smith's a prick, Smith turns over new leaf, movie gets tame and boring as Smith learns newfound joys of responsibility and community service.
I'm speculating on that last part, but we all know it's true. In fact responsibility is horrid and dull, so TV and movies have to constantly say it's great to prevent us from renaming the country Partyland and switching over to an all-bourbon economy with beads for dollars and lime wedges for cents.
If the movie had gone the safe route, it probably would have been enjoyable but forgettable, a chance for Smith to drink, swear, and toss children around before human kindness reformed him to the ultra-charming Will Smith we all know and love. Think a poor man's Bad Santa, where the humor's not as sharp, the sap's half again as thick, but with three or four times as many ass-beatings. Director Peter Berg shows the same deft hand with action he did in last year's The Kingdom.
But instead of the tried and true, the plot throws a knee-buckling curve ball that busts open the human and superhuman sides of Smith's mythology.
I've got a love-hate relationship with the genuine twist. I love that the filmmakers are willing to take a risk, but I hate that it makes me wake up, pay scrupulous attention, then pretend to make a reasoned decision about whether the twist adds anything to the picture. So does Hancock's work?
Yes and no. It's unexpected, it's interesting, it adds a dimension to a story that could have turned trite. But Hancock's problem is it overextends. It's like one of those one-man-band kits where the guy plays everything from the drums to the kazoo: at first it's entertaining you in so many ways you just want to kidnap it and chain it up in your basement forever, but sooner or later, you realize you may have been better off kidnapping a guy who's just a really good kazooist rather than somebody who's trying to do everything at once.
Not to say it's not a good time. It's funny, and for all its zagging plot, it keeps on moving. In a summer that's shaping up to be a strong one for blockbusters, it'll have a solid spot in that second tier of movies worth seeing sometime, but maybe not right away.