February is the time of year when thoughts turn to romance and the coming spring. It is also the time of year when Hollywood brings new romantic themed films to the theaters in an effort to open big, thanks to the date movie crowd.

Some of the efforts, such as last weekend’s The Wedding Date, never take off, while others, such as Hitch provide a nice mix of romance and comedy which, for the most part, work very well.

The film follows the exploits of urban legend Alex Hitch Hitchens (Will Smith), a self-styled date doctor who specializes in helping men romance the lady of their dreams. Hitch does not provide a dating service but rather helps his clients with their confidence and instructs them on the true way to win and keep and ladies heart.

With his proven results and good rapport with his clients, Hitch is a man in demand, yet due to his policy of privacy and secrecy, to many, the so-called love doctor is little more than an urban myth which is just fine with Hitch. He would rather work in the shadows than bask in the limelight. The adoration of his clients is all he needs. Well, that and a steady supply of ladies to charm at the days end.

Hitch is about to face his toughest case yet in a kind but portly accountant named Albert (Kevin James) who is desperate to win the heart of his wealthy socialite client Allegra (Amber Valletta). When Albert and Allegra start to be seen with one another in public, they catch the eye of celebrity snoop Sara (Eve Mendes), who becomes determined to see what is behind this unexpected couple, which in turn leads her to believe that the so-called Date Doctor is a reality.

If matters were not complicated enough, Hitch starts to see Sara on a social basis with each of them unaware of what the other really does. Sparks fly despite the unflappable and smooth Hitch having one thing after another go awry. Sara really seems to be effecting him, and the more pathetic and hopeless he seems, the more they are drawn to one another.

Instead of turning the film into a whimsical lark, Director Andy Tennant, who helmed the recent Sweet Home Alabama manages to balance comedy with romance, all the while keeping a little bit of drama involved.

Mendes and Smith have good chemistry with one another, as do Smith and James. Smith is very solid and likeable as the charming Hitch. He plays him as a smooth and confident guy, who is actually more reserved and cautious on the inside. The duality of his character is clear without being overwhelming, leaving him not only likeable, but as a character that is easy to root for. The biggest surprise of the film would be Kevin James. His portrayal of Albert is a solid mix of humor and decency. James gets many laughs with Albert’s attempt at being suave, as he portrays a very realistic and believable character who is struggling to find his inner confidence and let his body and voice convey what he has in his heart.

The film does lose momentum during the final twenty minutes when it becomes lazy, resorting to many standard situations that have been done many times before. That being said Hitch as a whole works, and if you are willing to overlook a few blemishes, you may find yourself enjoying the warmth, humor and charm.

4 stars out of 5