'Hitch' Up With Smith's Comic Valentine

Now in theaters: "Wedding Date" and "Hitch."

The Wedding Date

My son, Dylan, just turned 7 and isn't quite ready for Valentine's Day movies. I took him to see "Pooh's Heffalump Movie," a perfect family film, with lots of pratfalls. Seven-year-olds like that.

The simple animation works well. There are Carly Simon songs, and a great message: Sometimes, people you think are different turn out to be your best friends.

Just before the movie was over, Dylan turned to me and said, "I hope there's no kissing scene." I told you he's not ready for romantic movies.

Debra Messing might not be ready either.

In "The Wedding Date," Messing doesn't want to go alone to her younger sister's nuptials, so she hires a male escort. Think "Pretty Woman." The filmmakers did.

"Where'd you find him?" someone asks her.

"Yellow Pages," Messing says.

In "Pretty Woman," the response to "Where'd you find her?" is "977-BABE." That's a number I would've called if security hadn't taken my cell phone, fearing I would photograph the movie and sell pirated copies. This must be the new Hollywood definition of "optimist."

Dermot Mulroney plays the escort, a graduate of Brown University with a degree in comparative literature. Is it really that tough out there for liberal arts majors?

Messing, a fine actress, is visibly uncomfortable on the screen. Gratuitous foul language made me visibly uncomfortable in the audience. What do you say about a romantic comedy without context, without believable characters, without romance and without jokes?

You say, "Security, give me my cell back. I've got to call Moviefone." And get two tickets to "Hitch." Grade: C (Grade for "Pooh's Heffalump Movie": B-.)

Hitch

Kevin James, "The King of Queens," has his royal heart set on a New York society princess. In this movie, the sitcom star is Eva Mendes' accountant, and he makes a comparative lit major seem like a starting quarterback.

Enter Will Smith, a professional "dating doctor," who will charm your socks off. Of course, given his chosen profession in this film, he aims a little higher.

Smith goes a little overboard in this sweet-as-a-box-of-candy Valentine's Day treat. But this is a romantic comedy where you root for the romance and laugh big at the jokes.

"Hitch" is one of those movies that, when it's over, you'll wish it wasn't. It's not the story, it's the characters. Smith is so good. It's not enough he owns the Fourth of July weekend at the box office, he's taking over Valentine's Day, too. Grade: B.

One more recommendation: "Sideways" is a great romantic comedy. It opened very small but it's playing everywhere now, taking advantage of its six Oscar nominations. It deserved at least one more.

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