Thursday, April 19, 2012
Review: "Think Like a Man"
And here begins a new trend in movie-making: fictional films based not on novels, or even works of nonfiction, but on self-help books. "Think Like a Man" is adapted from a tome of relationship advice aimed at women written by comedian/game show host Steve Harvey. (The movie drops the first part of the book's title, "Act Like a Lady.")
Coming in May: "What to Expect When You're Expecting," advice for pregnant women turned into an ensemble comedy about a bunch of horndog daddies and their respective mama wannabes.
(What's next -- "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" turned into an action/thriller? "Be Proactive and light that motha up!!")
"Think Like a Man" is pleasant enough, with a gorgeous-looking cast of would-be couples clashing and romancing. There are lots of funny throwaway lines, one or two misty moments to bring a tear to the eye, and some enjoyable buddy-buddy scenes.
It doesn't really add up to much, since the characters are (literally) divided up into stereotypes: The Player, The Mama's Boy, The Dreamer, etc. With such a large cast -- six guys, four gals plus supporting players -- it's impossible to flesh any one of them out into three dimensions ... or sometimes even two.
Perhaps the one who comes closest is Taraji P. Henson as Lauren, a corporate executive who can feel her biological clock ticking, but refuses to settle for anyone less than her equal. To her, that means a power player who makes six figures and drives a car worth more than the average U.S. house.
"All this waiting for better, it's making you bitter," a friend observes.
Eventually Lauren falls for Dominic (Michael Ealy), a starving restaurant worker who dreams of becoming a chef. Of course, when she first meets him he's valet parking a $155,000 sports car, so it's a matter of time before the truth butts in. Lauren finds herself genuinely falling for him, and decides to fudge on her high standards.
On the other end of the spectrum are Zeke (Romany Malco) and Mya (Meagan Good), two players who try to see if they can make a go of a real relationship. Mya is trying out Harvey's 90-Day Benefits Rule -- aka, Zeke has to stick around for nearly three months before he gets "the cookie."
Jeremy (Jerry Ferrara) is a guy stuck in a college time warp, still dating his girlfriend Kristen (Gabrielle Union) after nine years and not any closer to putting a ring on it. Michael (Terrence Jenkins hasn't cut the apron strings from his mother, and single mom Candace (Regina Hall) insists that she be the #1 woman in his life.
The cast is rounded out by Bennett (Gary Owen), the happily married guy, and Cedric (Kevin Hart), the even happier recently divorced guy -- or so he tells himself. Hart's a pint-sized comedic pistol, and gets many of the movies best lines.
Director Tim Story broke out with "Barbershop," so it's no surprise that the movie's best scenes are the ones involving the sextet of guys hanging out, cracking on each other mercilessly and talking about women. Screenwriters Keith Merryman and David A. Newman give the dialogue a light, improvisational feel.
It's a fun group to hang out with, and even includes a couple of white guys in a majority black cast. The black dudes occasionally make jokes about the white dudes, who return fire happily, but there's a circle of trust and warmth there.
The filmmakers make a curious choice of including author Harvey for awhile, who pops onto the screen spouting lines from his book. It does make the movie seem more like a commercial for the book, but also acts as a clever framing device. Then Harvey just disappears about halfway through.
They should've gone for the Full Harvey, or none.
2.5 stars out of four