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Hancock: A New Kind of Superhero Movie

I'm not totally sure who the intended audience is for Hancock. The superhero aspect is campy enough for kids (and sometimes way too campy for adults), but there's definitely language that doesn't seem suitable for youngsters. Perhaps the teenagers will most enjoy the movie, though as an adult I liked it well enough and I certainly applaud what the story attempts to accomplish: tell a superhuman's story with the emphasis on the "human" experience. In a world overly saturated with superhero movies, this angle is actually pretty refreshing.

Also, it's a mainstream movie focused on a black superhero and I gotta say, it's about damn time.

Will Smith is Hancock, a modern-day superhero who's fallen out of favor with the public. For every good deed he does, he leaves a staggering amount of destruction in his wake. Hancock is surly, drinks constantly and has intense anger management problems. But when he saves the life of PR guy and general do-gooder Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman), Ray offers to help Hancock turn around his image. He devises a strategy for making the public stop taking Hancock for granted, while coaching him on how to seem more like a hero and less like a careless drunk. As Ray spends more and more time with Hancock, his son Aaron grows attached to the superhero, though Ray's wife Mary (Charlize Theron) seems constantly suspicious of him. Ray helps Hancock change his image, but that's just half the story; Hancock's past includes many more secrets he didn't even know were there.

For more of my take on the movie,


At it's most basic, the premise for the story is really clever. It's similar to the way Seinfeld manages to be funny while merely waxing philosophic about everyday things: If we look, quite seriously, at what it might be like for a modern-day superhero — especially one with rage issues — what challenges might this guy face? Might the public turn on him? Might he forget his strength and heave a whale into a boat? These would be real issues for a real superhuman, though to us they're just interesting and funny. Where the movie drags considerably is when it tries to be super dark, somber and overly dramatic.

Nobody is a better pick for this role than Will Smith. There are probably better comedians out there and there are guys who are good at being the badass. Smith, perhaps like his character, easily achieves a balance of two beings. He's a funny badass superhero.

And yet the best part of the whole movie is the relationship between Ray and Hancock. One of my favorite actors, Bateman is a funny guy on his own and within an ensemble cast, but when paired up with such a larger-than-life character, he's completely hysterical — and so is Smith. Like Bateman's former onscreen "son" Michael Cera, he plays the straight man like few people can: guilelessly, optimistically, truthfully. He's really just a good, normal guy trying to do his thing, and when set against Smith's great, off-kilter character, it strikes a perfect comedic balance.

It's a silly movie, for sure, and how much you like it will probably depend on your tolerance for silliness. It's not a masterpiece. But it is a pretty fun way to spend a couple of hot summer hours.

Photos courtesy of Sony Pictures

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