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It's not difficult to tell where "Hancock" shifts from being an enjoyable, agreeable alternate take on the superhero film into a near-complete mess. It's right there in the middle, when the not-so-thinly-veiled secret rears her head "? akin to shifting a car from drive into reverse without using the clutch.

That doesn't make "Hancock" one of the year's worst films as so many have pegged it "?  just one of its largest missed opportunities.

Credit to Will Smith for daring to dent his squeaky-clean image by playing an alcoholic, superpowered being with little regard for saving the public or its property. That premise is ripe with potential, if delivered with a streak of menace, which the movie does initially.

But the aforementioned surprise isn't much of one, and steers "Hancock" down a road of ridiculousness and generic, action-blockbuster conventions. The movie then suffers not just from a total tonal change, but lessened use of Jason Bateman, who's quickly becoming one of cinema's MVPs for wry humor.

The unrated edition is 10 minutes longer than the theatrical cut. I'm assuming the extra utterings of "asshole"  and a scene in which Hancock's super-orgasm pierces the ceiling of his trailer comprise the restored material. The latter feels out of place, as does director Peter Berg's unfortunate choice to go handheld with the camera and to score his film with a blues soundtrack. All things considered, "Hancock" is good, but it could've been great.

"?Rod Lott


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