The King of Queens: Kevin James royally steals the show in ‘Hitch’

“Hitch”Directed by Andy TennantWritten by Kevin BischStarring Will Smith, Eva Mendes and Kevin James

Two and a half out of four stars

Opened Feb. 11

“Hitch” is the cutely ironic nickname of professional love doctor Alex “Hitch” Hitchens (Will Smith), who meets his match (in more ways than one) when he falls for beautiful gossip columnist Sara (played by Eva Mendes).

Kevin James delivers the standout performance as the hapless Albert, an accountant in love with his millionaire client, Allegra Cole (played by Amber Valletta). James pulls what is otherwise a cheap and exploitive attempt to capitalize on misguided conceptions of love out of the gutter, and somehow makes everyone around him appear funny.

The rules for the date doctor are twofold: He doesn’t advertise, and he only helps those whom he feels are truly in love-cute, huh? But after a certain point, Hitch finds himself helping others find love, even though he doesn’t believe in it himself.

Sound lame? It’s 10,000 times more clich than you think.

The problem with “Hitch” is its failure to adequately utilize the comic genius of Kevin James. When he isn’t on screen-which is most of the movie, unfortunately-you’re just waiting for his next appearance. It’s a testament to his talents that James’ limited screen time is so memorable. His character’s subplot, involving love interest Allegra Cole, is the best thing the movie has going for it, but Smith and his love problems hog the bulk of the airtime.

Lousy celebrity-centric filmmaking…grumble, grumble…

To add insult to injury, the majority of Smith’s laughs come from scenes he shares with James.

In “Hitch,” Smith is trying to teach James how to be cool, but it’s he who comes across as slightly off and awkward in the end.

Another stymieing pothole takes form in the lack of chemistry between Mendes and Smith. Who knows? Maybe it was just the dialogue, but something was funky. Toward the end, the interplay gets so awkward that it actually made me uncomfortable. Not as uncomfortable as Amanda Bynes makes me feel-man do I hate her-but uncomfortable just the same.

Mendes remains charming and gorgeous throughout the movie, but she never really has a chance to shine. Most of her appearances work to complement Smith, and possess little flair. Unfortunately, she is one of the only cast members to not have a scene with James, which is probably why she doesn’t seem very funny.

While the dialogue toward the end is terribly trite, and Smith’s performance ends up being almost objectionable, this movie is worth seeing, if only for James.

If you’ve got $8 lying around, go see The King of Queens reign supreme over “Hitch.”

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