Hancock's high concept—it's Super-Hobo!—is a fun one, though it's already been done in the 1983 Alan Arkin musical The Return of Captain Invincible. And the trailers, with Will Smith as a drunken misanthrope flying into buildings and tossing whales around with impunity, suggested the kind of brainless summer fun that Smith used to supply with films like Men in Black. Unfortunately, as with I Am Legend and I, Robot, Smith has developed the unfortunate tendency to make all his popcorn flicks as heavy as a brain-dead Hamlet. Everything now has to have gravity and weight, and a simple redemptive superhero comedy simply wouldn't do for the erstwhile Mr. July.
Director Peter Berg—whose The Rundown is one of the most underrated action films of the last 10 years—always brings a lot of energy to the screen. Hancock's action sequences put Iron Man to shame with their vitality and clarity, but the expository scenes, which actually increase in number as things go on, kill the movie dead. At one point, the camera hopelessly circles Jason Bateman and Charlize Theron as they engage in a banal conversation, as though Berg is ready to pounce on them to bring something exciting to the screen.
Bateman, who projects a terrific dry wit on television, has yet to make a film that captures his small-screen charisma. As a PR flack who's trying to build a better world through branding, he almost disappears from his scenes with Smith. Theron has some fun as Bateman's lover, but her character sucks the fun out of the movie and replaces it with pointless mythology. Rarely has a dumb movie struggled so hard to be weighty. Hancock, with its stupid second-act twists, gives itself a hernia trying to do some completely unnecessary heavy lifting.