By: Oberst Von Berauscht (Three Beers) –
Ali Davis (Taraji P Henson) is passed over for Partner even though she is one of her firm’s star sports agents. When her boss informs her in none too subtle terms that she fails to connect with men, she is livid but seemingly unable to do anything about the situation. After a night of hard partying to let off steam, she wakes up to realize she can suddenly hear the inner thoughts of every man she meets. At first horrified, she soon decides to use her newfound power to her advantage. Soon she finds herself dominating.
Taraji P Henson is one of the hardest working actors in the business. She’s in multiple films every year, and whether the material is strong or severely lacking she always seems to make the most of the situation, delivering the goods. What could have been a forgettable gender-flipped re-tread of the 2000 original film instead goes for something far smarter. Henson brings real life to her character, a fiercely independent agent who blames everyone for her failure to move forward, never taking the time to realize that her acidic personality may turn some people off. Henson and the director Adam Shankman bring Ali through a genuine arc. It was a brilliant move to cast Richard Roundtree as Ali’s father, as he brings his suitably suave yet grizzled best. While he’s only in a couple of scenes, it provides all the backstory to her that you need.
That isn’t to say that the film is bereft of outrageous humor. Tracy Morgan gets his time in the spotlight playing an overbearing loudmouth father of a prospective client to Ali’s firm. Director Shankman thankfully reins him in just enough to keep the character believable, while still milking every scene for laughs.
While much of the humor in the film hits its mark. Ali’s interaction with her female friends ironically is where the movie is most disconnected. The whole premise of the film is supposed to be that she doesn’t connect with men, but yet the people she seems most alien from in terms of interaction are literally any female characters.
The film’s biggest issue is an unnecessary “liar revealed” plot complication to the romantic subplot. Ali decides to tell Tracy Morgan that her boyfriend is actually her husband in order to make it seem like she is a family person. This adds easily 20 minutes to the runtime, and none of it is needed. There was more than enough complication in the plot as it is, and this creates some large gaps of time where the humor falls flat. This could have been a solid 90 minute comedy rather than a middling 2 hour one.
Buoyed by a strong lead performance from Taraji P Henson, What Men Want is a mostly enjoyable if unnecessarily overlong comedy which mines fresh laughs from a heavily mined formula.
What Men Want (2019) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: for blatant, cartoonish sexism
Take a Drink: when characters drink onscreen
Take a Drink: for Tracy Morgan nonsense rants
Do a Shot: for shouting