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 Just in time for Valentine's Day this year, Sony released a romantic comedy in Big Willie Style, Hitch. Though frothy and flawed (which, really, is par for the course), the movie rightfully scored big with audiences.

Maybe June seems the right time for a DVD release. Isn't it still the most popular month for weddings? At any rate, Hitch hit the home video market last week and it still works.

After a few months of letting it live in memory, Hitch actually raised in estimation. A lot of that has to do with Will Smith's breezy way with the material, but as director Andy Tennant points out in an extra featurette, there's also the confidence and generosity that Smith has in letting Kevin James steal the movie out from under him.

In February, I wrote:

Every scene between the two hits the mark, and if they don't work together again, it will be a shame. They have far more natural give and take then Smith has had in his teamings with more intense actors like Tommy Lee Jones.

This alone makes the movie stand out. It may even make my personal best of 2005 list. There have been better movies this year, but few that I really wanted to make time to see again.

Sony has been holding back on extras with their DVD releases, and thus the package on Hitch seems almost extravagant. The movie plays on its own, with no commentary option, and that's more than okay. Somebody at Sony got smart and realized they could keep from duplicating too much information; instead, the cast and crew do enough commenting in the featurettes.

Of those featurettes, the best is the focus on Smith and James working out their hilarious dance sequence. Taken out of context, it's still funny; seeing what got cut from the final film is just as funny. I can hardly wait to try the "slow thriller." Even having Tennant try to dissect it (James pretends to) doesn't take away from the dance being funny.

There's also some focus on New York City, and how unusual it was to be able to film in all the locations they did. Give Tennant some credit as a director; though he had some rare access to places, the locations never distract from the story.

The remaining featurettes undercut the message of the movie, and blow a little of the good will Smith earned. One focuses on his fashion, one on his effort to set a world record for most public appearances in 12 hours by a celebrity (good lord, have we sunk so low?) and the last one, though interesting, does exactly the opposite of what the character Hitch concludes: gives dating advice. At least it will take up less of your time than reading a self-help book.

Because most comedies feature a shot at a pop hit, the disc includes a music video by Amerie, "1 Thing." In the absence of MTV, it will do. The obligatory blooper reel also appears, unfortunately mostly of the cast just blowing lines. It does rise above the usual when James or Smith riff, but such instances are too few.

That leaves Deleted Scenes. Making an interesting change, Tennant presents the opening seven minutes of the film with an alternate soundtrack; in this case, a score that he eventually dropped in favor of a song. The mix turns up the music and muffles the dialogue, so it's not quite the same as actually hearing what a difference it might have made. As for the rest of the deleted scenes, while they're competent enough, Tennant was absolutely right to have cut them.

Which still leaves you with a charming movie. Hitch stands up on repeated viewings, so if you're interested, it will make a good addition to your home collection and you might learn some good dance moves that you dare not ever use in public.

Derek McCaw


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