(In theaters, February 2005) My dating life needs all the help it can get, so Hitch had a pedagogic quality slightly beyond its simple entertainment value. Fortunately, it turns out to be one of the best romantic comedies of the past few years, a compliment that says more about romantic comedies in general than Hitch‘s actual worth. The originality of the premise alone is worth a look: Nominally paying attention to romance from a male perspective (at a time where romantic comedies are aimed straight at women), Hitch depends on the considerable charisma of leading-man Will Smith as a “Date Doctor” teaching hapless guys like me the proper way to woo women. It’s an excuse for good gags, of course, but also an interesting way to jump-start twin romantic plot-lines that don’t depend on silly love triangles to work. (Indeed, the disappointing third act reaches it nadir when it tries to use the “other man” plot device for a few moments.) Will Smith is as appealing as ever; perhaps one of the few actors working today able to pull off the required empathy/self-confidence shtick required to make this character work. Eva Mendez makes for a capable foil as another super-powered character who has to be convinced of the value of romance in order to fall for him. If the film has a principal flaw, it’s that it fails to exploit this “stronger characters require stronger romance” thread. Well, that and the fact that it become more and more conventional as it goes along. But one could use Hitch as a gateway for a discussion of romantic comedies without scratching the surface of why this is an enjoyable film for both males and females. Funny performances (with particular props to the irresistible comedic timing of Kevin James) enhance a good but wasteful script, and the result is more than tolerable.