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</script></div>{/googleAds}A chief complaint about Hancock, the next in Will Smith's Independence Day release stranglehold, will most certainly be hurled at the perception that the film changes its mood too frequently. I hear the curmudgeonly old critics rustling in their seats as the credits begin to roll. "They didn't know what kind of picture they wanted to make." While unevenness of tone and multiple personality disorder often spell doom when not handled correctly, here these very attributes are what make Hancock so much better than your average superhero flick. And that's a much-needed accessory in a Summer road littered with masked villains and heroes in tights.

What Will Smith and director Peter Berg have done is definitely risky, even if at times a bit wonky. But that's part of what makes the whole thing work. Hancock is laugh-out-loud funny throughout, the drama is deep and well acted, Charlize Theron's romance burns up the screen, and the depth of emotion even sometimes makes our eyes tear up. With most hero fare, you get only one. But here, they dig a little deeper, and even though they mine unproductive pay dirt at times, more often than not, we're treated to a mysteriously conglomerated yet delicious meatball of a lot of different things.

HancockIt's difficult to reveal too much about the plot without dangerously nearing "spoilers" territory, but it is safe to boil all the main characters down to four. Will Smith, of course, is Hancock, a profane, nasty, stinking drunkard who spends most of his days on a bus stop bench sleeping off the previous night's drinking binge... that is when he's not busy saving Los Angeles from bad guys. After all, he is a super hero. Jason Bateman is Ray Embrey, a struggling public relations consultant. Charlize Theron is Ray's beautiful wife, and Jae Head is their young son.

The citizens of L.A. begin to harbor mixed feelings about their reluctant hero however, when his damage-to-crimes-solved ratio gets seriously out of whack. Sure, he puts a significant dent in the city's crime statistics, but when he stops an SUV-load of crooks, skewering their vehicle on the spire atop the Capital Records building, the public, as well as the Chief of Police, have had enough. A warrant is issued for Hancock's arrest.

Ray Embrey attempts to team up with Hancock with hopes of turning both their fortunes around. He sees Hancock's disapproval as more of a poor public relations image rather than intentional, so he teaches the surly super hero how to act politely in public and even convinces him to turn himself in to the police. It's his time served in jail that leads to one of the film's funniest, if not most disturbing, sight gags. It's hard to believe this actually made it into a film with a PG-13 rating, but so it did. With what we know about the MPAA, it wouldn't surprise me if they allowed the humor to override the gross-out factor when they made their decision, but regardless, this segment is sure to have the entire audience rolling in the aisles. Speaking of the MPAA, a brief warning to parents: there's plenty of cursing in the film, including its one and only use of the "F" word (I guess the display of "F%@K" in subtitles doesn't count as one), as well as a healthy dose of violence and vulgarity.

It's Embrey's involvement with Hancock that begins to lead to some complications. And it's these complications that bring about a pretty serious change of tone to the proceedings. The film changes from a hilarious comedy to a serious drama, before eventually finishing up as the big budget action flick the trailers lead us to believe. Before we know it, we're harboring a strong feeling of hope for the characters. And that's saying a lot in the case of the repulsive Hancock. It's our investment in these characters that helps the closing scenes pack a much bigger wallop. Without knowing who these people are and caring what happens to them, Hancock would be just another summer blockbuster action movie.

Hancock is an exception to the rule. More often than not, when a film tries to tackle several genres, it fails miserably with its depiction of each. But in Hancock not only did the filmmakers pull it off, had they not made such a tremendous reach, the film could have been a complete dud.

Component Grades
4 stars
3 Stars
DVD Experience
3.5 stars


DVD Details:

Screen Formats: 2.40:1

Subtitles: Mandarin, Chinese, English, French, Indonesian, Bahasa, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai

Language and Sound: Closed Captioned; English: Dolby Digital 5.1; French-Canadian: Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1; Portuguese: Dolby Digital 5.1; Thai: Dolby Digital 5.1

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; making-of featurettes; behind-the-scenes featurettes.

* Featurettes
o Superhumans: The Making of Hancock
o Seeing the Future - An in-depth look at the scenes of Hancock using pre-visualization, film and behind-the-scenes footage
o Building a Better Hero
o Special Effects featurette
o Bumps and Bruises - Stunts featurette
o Mere Mortals: Behind the scenes with "Dirty Pete"
o The Directing style of Peter Berg

Number of Discs: 1 with Keepcase Packaging