Romantic comedies have long been a platform for men and women to talk about one another behind their backs. Such playful banter is enjoyable to us not only because we like hearing members of our own kind speak just as we do, but we’re also engaged by what members of the opposite sex have to say, probably because it gives us a chance to learn more about them. In one corner: the men, who play sports, drink beers, congratulate each other on “getting some” and talk about how women are crazy. In the other corner: the women, who play Scrabble, drink wine, eat salad and discuss what’s wrong with today’s man, who, according to the females in Think Like a Man, seems to be in a perpetual state of arrested development, in one way or another.
Movie Review: Think Like a Man
By Matthew Huntley
April 30, 2012
While the movie’s depictions of men and women are somewhat truthful, how many times must we see them in this premise? You know the one I’m talking about, where two groups of close-knit friends, one comprised of men, the other women, sit around and talk about their relationship woes and turn to their brethren for help and guidance, all in the name of wanting to find the perfect mate. We’ve met these people before and we’ll probably meet them again.
The twist with Think Like a Man is the women believe they have found a cheat sheet for controlling the men in their lives. They catch the actor-comedian-author Steve Harvey on TV promoting his new book, Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, which explains why men behave the way they do and how women can use that knowledge to their advantage. To them, Harvey is like an insider trader who knows all the right secrets. His book becomes their “Male to English” translator and the women start to believe they can tap into the male psyche and get men to treat them right.
Each of the women in this movie is smart, attractive and has heard it all before in their respective situations. They’re fed up with men being non-committal, only wanting sex or afraid to detach themselves from their overbearing mothers. Mya (Megan Good) wants someone who isn’t just interested in her body and is tired of the “hook up one night and run away the next morning” routine. Kristen (Gabrielle Union) is hoping her live-in boyfriend of nine years, Jeremy (Jerry Ferrara), will finally pop the question and outgrow his video game/comic book lifestyle, and maybe even land a better job and suggest dinner other than pizza. Candace (Regina Hall) wants to meet someone who isn’t scared off by her young son. And Lauren (Taraji P. Henson), a COO of a Fortune 500 company, seeks a man who can live up to her high standards and who isn’t going to cower in the face of her career and financial success. By following Harvey’s advice, these women believe they can find someone who will make them feel special.
The men, on the other hand, feel the negative effects of Harvey’s book and view him as a traitor. Take Zeke (Romany Malco) learns Mya has adopted Harvey’s 90-day no-sex rule, or, as Mya puts it, “keeping the lid on the cookie jar.” Jeremy, meanwhile, slowly learns Kristen is stealthily “requiring” him to change his behavior by asking him to submit his resume to a better company and redecorate their apartment. Candace sends signals to Michael (Terrence Jenkins) to make her the number one woman in his life, even before his mamma (Jenifer Lewis). Dominic (Michael Ealy), an aspiring chef, is pressured to constantly impress Lauren by cooking her fancy meals and emptying his bank account. And poor Cedric (Kevin Hart), who’s finalizing a divorce, thinks he’s happy because he’s now single, when in fact he’s lonely.
Though its setup is mildly promising, Think Like a Man eventually sticks to the typical romantic comedy formula. Like most examples of the genre, it’s a light fairy tale and shouldn’t be thought of as anything more. All of the characters are beautiful, fit people living in ridiculously expensive and well-furnished apartments in Los Angeles. They also seem to have an endless amount of money to spend, except for Dominic, but even his money troubles are “movie” money troubles, meaning he’s never in any real danger of ending up on the streets or begging for food.
There’s nothing wrong with making a fairy tale, and the movie never claims to be realistic or offer anything beyond superficial insight into how men and women think. But as a comedy, it’s just not very funny. If it’s not going to be insightful or present characters that go beyond the usual archetypes, then it should at least make us laugh, or woo us with its romance. Unfortunately, it doesn’t do those things; or not enough anyway.
The movie has some punchy editing and witty dialogue here and there, but it’s too far spread to bear much consequence. Before you know it, the screenplay, based on Harvey’s real-life book, descends into autopilot mode, complete with the usual elements of doubt and perfectly timed happy endings where all the pieces (and people) come together. The most blatant example comes at the end when Lauren is having dinner with her ex-boyfriend and realizes she’s made a terrible mistake. Could a scene like this, where the hunky guy suddenly turns into a self-centered jerk, be more blatant? Would it have killed the writers to leave one of the characters dangling on a sad note?
But then, that wouldn’t make for much of a fairy tale would it? After all, the reason people go to a movie like this is to be swept away by the fantasy, romance and laughter. But it failed to sweep me up, probably because its jokes, observations and happenings are too standard and romantic comedy-ish. I feel like I’ve heard them all before, and like the characters, I was hoping for something new and different.