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John Hancock, the character, is supposed to blow as a superhero. He drinks, he curses, he spends his days sleeping on benches or wreaking more havoc on his home base of Los Angeles than he spares it from when the city’s in distress. Unfortunately, the creators of Hancock, the movie, didn’t think beyond these broad strokes of superjackassery, which means that their antihero merely spreads his suckage filmwide.
Or for the majority of it, at least. Until a surprise turn approximately two-thirds in, Hancock feels as if it were crafted by folks who found Transformers too high-minded. (For the record, that would be The Kingdom director Peter Berg and writers Vy Vincent Ngo and Vince Gilligan.) Will Smith glowers impressively as the perpetually hungover title character, but even though Hancock offers a side of the charismatic actor we’ve never really seen before, you have to wonder who will care to see this particular bad-guy incarnation again. Hancock’s signature moves include chugging a bottle of whiskey, jetting straight up into the sky (with terrible CG when he’s in midair), and yelling at anyone who dares to boo his efforts. (Though, to be fair, it is funny when he saves a car from being crushed by a train and then says, “All you people blocking the intersection. You’re all idiots.”) His favorite threat is that he’s going to stick one person’s head up another one’s ass. It’s mildly amusing until he actually does it—accompanied by the Sanford and Son theme. (Can’t put my finger on it, but something about that feels kinda racist, no?) Hope you also like the word “asshole,” because the scripters sure do, thinking it the best diss imaginable and having characters throw it around liberally.
The gist of the story involves Ray (Jason Bateman), the public-relations guru Hancock saved from the train wreck, who intends to rehabilitate the superhero’s image. When it’s discovered that Hancock is a wanted man, Ray suggests he turn himself in, become a model prisoner, and return to society in a properly heroic style, complete with lame uniform and good manners. Of course, Hancock doesn’t go for it—until he does. And people start loving him again, and we find out a bit about his origin, which involves amnesia and immortality.
It’s all yawn-inducing until the world discovers that Hancock isn’t necessarily the last of his kind, as he believes. At this point, the action kicks up, the story gets interesting, and the insipidness drops enough to save you from further brain-numbing. It’s not enough to make the mess that came before it worth sitting through. But odds are good that a couple of summers from now, you’ll get the chance to be bored stupid by Hancock again.