Hancock (Will Smith) goes postal in The Dark Knight. (photo copyright Columbia Pictures)

Will Smith plays Hancock, a superhero with an attitude. In addition to his hard drinking and disturbing social skills, Hancock’s heroic acts of combat and rescue leave more collateral damage than he prevents, not that he cares. Whenever he lands, for example, his crashing descent destroys roads, sidewalks, and front lawns. So while the public appreciates his help, they consider his super-services unaffordable. And because he doesn’t care, they don’t like him. Not that he cares.

This is where Jason Bateman comes in. He plays Ray, the kind and moral PR consultant who is determined to save the world with love. My PR husband assures me that Ray’s character is more fictional than superheroes who fly. But I digress. Ray almost gets hit by a train, only to be rescued by Hancock, who wrecks the entire train in the process of saving one person. But Ray is so grateful to Hancock that he offers to spruce up his image with damage control and a kind of superhero finishing school, for a new and improved Hancock. 

In its opening first act, Hancock promises some clever and quirky entertainment. The dialogue and premise are fun, and Will Smith does a fine job being the troubled super-guy who sleeps on park benches. And Ray’s efforts are admirable as he tries to spin a bad hero into a media darling.

But Hancock is riddled with problems that turn this movie into a disappointing disaster by halftime. The first problem is the casting of Charlize Theron as Ray’s wife. Charlize may be lovely to look at, but her performance skills are painful to watch. And in the tradition of what some of us call the Tom Cruise School of Acting, her portrayal amounts to little more than posing for the camera. Casting a stronger, more stylized actress (Ashley Judd and Sandra Bullock come to mind) would have made the movie a lot less irritating. But even a super Hollywood heroine could not have rescued this ailing story.

For those of you who insist on seeing Hancock in spite of my warnings, I will not reveal any more details. But I will tell you that there is an abrupt turning point where this promising comedy turns into a strange drama, filled with twists and a back story that just don’t work. And instead of delivering a novel adventure, the second half of the film creates the impression that the screenwriters just got confused and then ran out of ideas. 

If you need rescuing from boredom or are just plain curious to see a promising screenplay that’s desperate for a superhero script doctor, wait for the Hancock DVD. And have a backup.   C-

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