As the indestructible title character, Will Smith is a Man of Steel who'd rather melt into a puddle of cheap booze. He's cruel to children, criminal toward criminals, and a menace to Los Angeles. Smith, clad in tatters and covered in grime, plays him like an alky Ali; Hancock is beefy, hungover, pissed off, and spoiling for a fight. Yawn—especially as Peter Berg's movie trudges through its first third with ho-hum jokes tethered to rinky-dink special effects. Hancock's so indefensibly enh during its first half-hour that it almost doesn't recover; like its hero, the movie comes off as a touch suicidal. But slowly, and clumsily, Hancock lurches toward greatness, moving from silly to serious to almost sad, and getting better with every passing second. Redemption involves Jason Bateman, as the first public-relations hero in cinema history, and his wife, played by Charlize Theron, who reveal to Hancock his purpose. However, the film suffers an almost fatal flaw: It doesn't take itself as seriously as it should, which undercuts a final act that could have packed a mighty emotional wallop. Noted a colleague after a preview screening: "Here's a superhero movie that could have used more pretension."
Smith accepts his superpowers too late for us to care.
Opens at Neptune and other theaters, Wed., July 2. Rated PG-13. 92 minutes.