HANCOCK — ** — Will Smith, Charlize Theron, Jason Bateman; rated PG-13 (violence, profanity, vulgarity, brief gore, slurs, brief drugs, brief partial nudity); Carmike 12 and Ritz; Century Sandy and South Salt Lake; Cinemark Jordan Landing; Megaplex District, Gateway and Jordan Commons; Red Carpet Gateway; Redwood Drive-in; Westates Holladay Center

It's hard to make heads or tails of "Hancock." At times the movie seems like an overcooked cinematic concoction. At other times, it appears to be half-baked.

So, despite having a few "wow" moments, this is one of the more frustratingly inconsistent movies in recent memory.

Of course, that inconsistency might be more forgivable if the film were a low-budget "indie" instead of a big-budget summer spectacular. And it might not be so noticeable if the film didn't star Will Smith, a usually reliable performer.

His last really big commercial and critical dud was "Wild Wild West," nearly 10 years ago. Fortunately, this film isn't nearly that bad.

As played by Smith, the title character is super-strong, seems to be invulnerable and has the ability to fly.

And though he has used those powers to fight crime, he's also irresponsible and thoughtless, and his actions have caused considerable property damage. So he's very unpopular with the public.

Enter Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman), an enterprising public relations man whose life Hancock recently saved. Embrey befriends the lone wolf antihero and suggests that he start a "rehabilitation" program, by first surrendering to authorities and then agreeing to do some time in prison.

The idea is Hancock will also receive anger-manage- ment and substance-abuse counseling behind bars and will be out of the public eye for a while. Then, when he's really needed, he can re-emerge.

This is plenty of fodder for an entire movie. But strangely, director Peter Berg and two credited screenwriters wrap this bit up halfway through and then take things a completely different direction in the film's second half.

It's a stark change, especially when the tone of the film goes from irreverent and sort of goofy to overly dark and violent.

So, it's no wonder the cast appears to be confused. Smith is a little tentative, as is Charlize Theron, who plays Ray's wife — and is hiding a pretty big secret from him.

"Hancock" is rated PG-13 for strong violent action (brawling, shootings, a stabbing, vehicular and explosive mayhem and violence against women), scattered strong profanity (including one usage of the so-called "R-rated" curse word), crude references and suggestive humor, brief gore and blood, derogatory language (including slurs based on sexual preference), brief drug content (references and a hypodermic) and brief partial male nudity. Running time: 92 minutes.


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