There’s some idea out there in the world that Will Smith "owns" the July 4 holiday weekend in terms of box office. I guess this is because of "Independence Day," one of my favorite movies, and "Men in Black," also quite good, released, respectively, in 1996 and 1997 on that weekend.
Alas, all good hype must come to an end. "Hancock," with which Sony is hoping to have a merry July 4, 2008, may not duplicate Smith’s previous successes. It is one of the worst family holiday weekend releases of recent memory — and jaw-droppingly so. And that’s hard to do, since it clocks in at a mere wisp of one hour and 20 minutes.
In such brevity there should be a reward. After all, "Hancock," directed by Peter Berg, is shorter than most Woody Allen comedies. There’s nothing funny here, however, or witty or clever or even developed beyond an idea that should never have been executed in this way.
Imagine that the word "a-hole" — fully spoken out — is repeated over and over, and that its first appearance, in the movie’s first scene, is delivered by a child. Thus, the vulgarity begins. But unlike other crass films of this month, such as "Zohan" and "Love Guru," the coarseness of "Hancock" is a wildly under-calculated mistake.
Hancock, preposterously, is an unwilling superhero. He’s a drunk, a hobo and — to be frank — an "a-hole" so lacking in charisma, charm or even bravado that there’s nowhere for him to go but down from a low rung on the ladder.
Unlike Smith’s cocky, smiling heroes of the past, Hancock is just offensive and stupid. His favorite warning to those he’s about to pulverize is an admonition that at least one of his villains will wind up with their head relocated in Hancock’s derriere. True enough, one time we get to see this and it’s not pretty. It’s not funny, either.
The screenplay, which is underdeveloped to the point of amazement for a Hollywood summer blockbuster, is credited to Vince Gilligan and Vincent Ngo. That they’ve done Smith a disservice is an understatement, but their other victims are Charlize Theron, Jason Bateman and a little boy named Jae Head. Their characters literally are abandoned to incoherence.
An hour and 20 minutes later, here are things you will not know: who Hancock is, where he and Theron came from (it’s telegraphed with the subtlety of a mallet that she has a past with him) and who the persons fighting them are (I have no idea).
This much we know: Hancock, whom we meet as he awakens on a park bench from a drinking binge, has powers of flight and super strength. He either can’t or doesn’t want to control them. He’s belligerent and obnoxious, a sort of anti-hero who in comic books usually is defeated by a good guy.
The latter is something he doesn’t want to be. When Bateman’s PR guy shows Hancock a bunch of comics featuring superheroes, Hancock’s response to each one is "Homo." Charming.
It is said the legion of writers and directors who came and went before "Hancock" was initiated had a "black" comedy in mind — something that sent up the idea of superheroes. But a mess has been made in the process and $150 million wasted.
These people all forgot some truisms: In the end, a Will Smith movie with special effects released on July 4 weekend has to be family- and early teen-accessible. "Hancock" is neither. It’s often violent in realistic ways, the plot hinges on an extramarital affair and the main character lacks swagger, confidence and manners.
Columbia says "Hancock" is tracking well, and I’ll bet it's right. The first couple of days — next Wednesday and Thursday — should be big. The fear, I’m sure, though, is that by Friday, July 4, the word will be out. By Sunday they’ll know exactly who’s head is up whose you know what.
"Sex and the City" star Chris Noth is done with "Law & Order: Criminal Intent."
Sources tell me Noth is leaving the series he's been with for five seasons, splitting leading-role duties with Vincent D'Onofrio. His replacement will be Jeff Goldblum, who comes to TV from a long film career that includes "The Fly" and "Independence Day."
Noth, as Detective Mike Logan, was a member of the original "Law and Order" cast when it started 18 years ago. He left the show, returned, and then joined "Criminal Intent" originally opposite Annabella Sciorra in 2005 after pumping up his career considerably as Mr. Big in the HBO series "Sex and the City."
But "Criminal Intent" has had ratings problems, and now airs first on the USA Networks, owned by NBC, and then the parent network. For the coming season, I'm told, Noth was asked to take a pay freeze instead of an increase. But with "Sex and the City" booming at the box office, he decided it was time to go.
Noth shouldn't have any problem getting work. He's already made the transition to films. Noth is shooting the romantic comedy "My One and Only" with Renee Zellweger.
With rumors spreading that Madonna and Guy Ritchie’s marriage is over, the question remains: Could this affect their adoption of Malawi toddler David Banda?
Certainly, the Ritchies got permission to take David out of the country and keep him based on their presentation to Malawi officials of a happy, nuclear family.
Foreign adoptions, as we all know, are not allowed in Malawi. Madonna and Guy only got away with it by taking David to England, then pressuring the Human Rights Commission in that country with evidence that he’d be in a happy home.
Of course, there’s no solid evidence yet that the Ritchies are breaking up. This reporter saw them dining together in Cannes a month ago, and they looked as happy as any other married couple. The latest speculation is that they’ve each hired high-powered divorce attorneys (unconfirmed) and that Madonna is in New York while Guy is in London.
As one Madonna insider told me last night: "I doubt they’ve thrown in the towel yet" on the marriage. I agree. But that and two bucks will get you on the subway.
Dody Goodman, who was so much fun as Mary Hartman’s ditzy mother back in the mid '70s, died this week at age 93. In her earlier career, Goodman had been the comic foil to Jack Paar on the "Tonight Show" (this was before Johnny Carson). It’s hard to appreciate her just from clips, but she was sublime. Check out YouTube to see a little of her by searching under "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman". …
Of course, "Mary Hartman" was the very clever parody of daytime soaps. From what I hear, over at a real soap, CBS’ "As the World Turns," things could not be worse. The ratings are spiraling downward week after week since the ouster of star Martha Byrne. Once third of eight shows, it’s now No. 7. …
There’s a lovely remembrance of New Yorker artist Ed Arno at MichaelMaslin.com. It was just announced that the beloved, famed cartoonist passed away on May 27. He was 92. William Grimes also has a nice obit of Arno in Friday's New York Times. …
Isn’t this something? Only in America could Harry Bradford, a "regular" 60-year-old Brit and serious part-time golfer on holiday, come to the 4th Annual Hamptons Golf Classic and finish in fourth place among a bunch of celebs and locals. Good for him! Harry played along with New York Giants Super Bowl hero David Tyree and Richie Notar, the famed former Studio 54 doorman who runs the Nobu empire for Drew Nieporent and Robert DeNiro, and Page Six’s Richard Johnson. The Golf Classic honored Neal Sroka of Douglas Elliman Worldwide, L.L.C. at Hamptons Hills Golf & Country Club.