With some movies, it’s a matter of expectations. You don’t go to see Animal House and come out saying, “Well, it wasn’t as good as To Kill a Mockingbird.” You go in expecting a romantic comedy, which is a genre that is tough to do and hasn’t worked for me much lately. I don’t know if it’s because I’m not as romantic as I used to be, or if Hollywood has lost the knack of making delightful froth like It Happened One Night. This movie is far from the best romantic comedy I’ve ever seen, but it worked for me, mostly. It got a little slow at times, but Will Smith is appealing, and so is Eva Mendes. They have chemistry. Kevin James as the fat, shy nerd hopelessly in love with the beautiful celebrity is very, very good. He could have been simply a foil for Smith’s wit, but he manages to make the character his own.
One sad comment. I read that, in casting Mendes as the object of Smith’s affections, studio wonks used this reasoning: casting a white woman would have pissed off black audiences, and casting a black woman meant that white audiences wouldn’t have gone, because they are widely believed to be not interested in romances between two black people. I don’t know if either of these things are true. It is sad that these things still have to be considered, but maybe I can take a little heart in observing that, when I was young, casting a white woman would have been absolutely out of the question, and in fact Will Smith would have been unlikely to be a star at all. Two black actors won Oscars last night, and that’s progress. But it’s so damn slow.