Think Like a Man is the latest ensemble romantic comedy based on a self-help book. You may recall He’s Just Not That Into You (the movie itself, not any actual scenes from it since it was pretty forgettable). There’s also the upcoming What To Expect When You’re Expecting in which we’ll be treated to Cameron Diaz and Jennifer Lopez experiencing hi-larious bouts of morning sickness (while no doubt looking perfect). This trend says something about Hollywood and that something is: We are all out of ideas. For real.
Coming to theaters soon! Starring Katherine Heigl, Jennifer Aniston, Ashton Kutcher, Patrick Dempsey, Jamie Fox, Kate Hudson, Queen Latifah, Sarah Jessica Parker, Zac Efron, Jessica Alba, Jessica Biel, Jessica Simpson, Ben Affleck, Casey Affleck, and Al Pacino as “Uncle Lou.”
This time around the source material is comedian/actor/host Steve Harvey’s bestselling Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man: What Men Really Think about Love, Relationships, Intimacy, and Commitment. Why Steve Harvey, who has been married three times and divorced twice (the most recent divorce was a pretty nasty one-you can hear his ex talk all about it on YouTube) would write a self-help book about relationships is anyone’s guess. I’ll go with the same explanation Steve gives as to why men cheat: because he can.
Before going to see the movie, I read a few excerpts of the book. In a nutshell, it goes like this: Men are simple, men want power and success, women want marriage and babies, men can separate sex from love, women cannot, women are demanding and want men to be perfect, women can’t change men, women must be the ones that change, men don’t respect women that don’t respect themselves, and women must withhold the “cookie” until a man earns it. (Take one guess as to what the cookie is.)
So basically it’s all the same oversimplified stereotypical garbage that we’ve been hearing forever. As a woman, I felt insulted. I also felt insulted for men. If this book was on Showtime at the Apollo, I’d be booing as loud as I could for that tapdancing guy to come escort it off the stage.
The book also reduces men and women down to specific types: The Player, The Mama’s Boy, The Happily Divorced Guy, The Happily Married Guy, The Dreamer, The Woman Who Is Her Own Man, The 90-Day Rule Girl, The Ring Girl, and the Single Mom. Each of these types is brought to life in the film adaptation and perfectly matched up with their direct opposite. The women get a hold of Harvey’s book and begin to try to change their partners. Soon the men get wise to what the women are doing and use the book to turn the tables on the women (they call it “defending themselves.”) . Hijincks ensue. It’s a battle of the sexes and Steve Harvey is the all-knowing giant toothed Yoda.
Suffice it to say, I went in to Think Like Man prepared to hate it. Surprisingly, I didn’t.
I know, I’m just as shocked!
Credit must go to writers Keith Merryman and David A. Newman (Friends With Benefits) who were faced with the task of writing a film with eight main characters, each of which is a cliché. Though some were fleshed out more than others, somehow they all managed to come off as real people with neither sex portrayed as the villain. The story moves along at a nice pace despite being two hours long and there are some genuine laughs along the way (I especially liked the swipes at Tyler Perry movies).
Though the book is heavily referenced (complete with shots of a smug Steve Harvey and his teeth dispensing his groundbreaking advice every time there is a television anywhere in a shot), it’s debated amongst the characters and some even point out how sexist the advice is. Ultimately the success of the relationships is not due to the advice of the book itself, but to the couples compromising and understanding each other, not as men and women, but as human beings. It was smart approach to the material and well-directed by Tim Story.
The talented, likable, and ridiculously attractive cast (except for Woman Beater Punkass Chris Brown) should also be toasted. It was great to see a group of actors mostly only known for past supporting roles given the chance to shine. Each couple’s chemistry was believable, as were the same-sex friendships (the scenes featuring the group of men were some of the funniest).
I found myself most invested in the storyline of high-powered CEO Lauren (Taraji P. Henson) a.k.a. “The Woman Who is Her Own Man” and minimum wage restaurant worker Dominic (Michael Ealy), “The Dreamer,” even muttering “bitch” under my breath at Lauren at one point. I also loved the dynamic of the relationship between Jeremy (Jerry Ferrara) and Kristen (Gabrielle Union), the long-term couple stuck in that phase between living together in a “dorm room” and marriage. Their relationship seemed very honest and it was refreshing that the fact that they happened to be an interracial couple was never mentioned as one of their differences.
And it’s actually funny. Not gross-out cheap slapstick funny, but smart, nuanced funny balanced nicely with actual heart. Again, the writers and great cast (except for Woman Beater Punkass Chris Brown) are to thank for that. There are some over-the-top moments courtesy of “Happily Divorced Guy” Cedric (Kevin Hart, graduate of the Chris Tucker School of Loud Hysterical Comedic Acting), which the audience at the screening I attended went absolutely crazy over. Like, with applause and everything. For me, it was a bit too much, but it’s all a matter of taste. Not really my type of comedy personally, but many other people sure found it funny.
Seriously, look at those teeth!
Every time I really started getting involved in the story, the film would bizarrely cut to a close-up of Steve Harvey (and his choppers) reciting his wisdom and peddling his book. It felt like I was watching a movie on basic cable with commercial breaks. I found it jarring and unnecessary. It’s not like the audience needed the reminder that the film is based on the book, since every five minutes a character would pick up a copy and tell another character how wonderful it is. I’m just surprised there wasn’t a flashing graphic on the bottom of the screen that said “AVAILABLE NOW IN BOOKSTORES EVERYWHERE! AND ALSO AMAZON IF YOUR LOCAL BOOKSTORE IS CLOSED!” I’m sure this was the result of some contractual obligation in optioning the book and it’s too bad Harvey couldn’t reel in his ego just a little bit because it nearly ruins the movie.
There is only one instance in which it works, a fictional Oprah-type talk show featuring Harvey as the guest. That’s perfectly believable. Not so believable? That every television station would be airing Steve talking about his book. At all times. Wherever the characters happened to be.
We’re further pummeled with how popular this book supposedly is by a scene of mass hysteria in a bookstore. Women literally fighting over it. And when the men figure out that it is the ammunition their girlfriends are using on them and try to acquire a copy, they learn that it is sold out. Everywhere.
So this book is like the second coming of the Bible and it’s the only thing everyone is talking about yet when the women discover their men have heard of it, they get angry and feel betrayed. How dare they! It’s supposed to be a secret book for women only!
Hey! You’re not allowed to read that!
Did you not think I wasn’t going to give Woman Beater Punkass Chris Brown his very own beer? Thankfully his cameo is very small: less than five minutes of total screentime. And he plays a douchebag, sooo not much of a stretch. Still, the disposable role could have been filled by any actor in his age bracket.
I could understand the reasoning behind choosing Brown. He has a diehard fanbase of devoted fans who will gladly plunk down ten bucks at their local theater to see five minutes of him. I witnessed it firsthand. The giggling and oohing that filled the theater when Brown first appears was enough to make me reach into my purse for a nip of vodka I had left over from a recent flight. I’m hoping that these fans paid attention to the one piece of Steve Harvey’s advice I actually agree with: Respect Yourself.
Think Like a Man is nowhere near perfect but it’s better than most recent ensemble comedies (Valentine’s Day, New Years Eve, He’s Just Not That Into You). I almost assigned it a fourth beer because it follows the conventional rom-com formula, but I didn’t because, well, it is a rom-com. Even though the stories are predictable, the characters are engaging and funny, and there is a warmth that similar films of this type lack which makes it worth watching. I suggest waiting for the DVD and fast-forwarding through Steve Harvey’s informercial-type segments.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time you see Steve Harvey’s giant teeth.
Take a Drink: every time the book appears on-screen.
Take a Drink: at every reference to “the cookie.”
Take a Drink: at every slow-motion shot of Lauren gazing lustfully at a man in an expensive car.
Take a Drink: at every montage in which every character is experiencing the same emotions.
Take a Drink: every time Cedric says something outrageous at the top of his lungs.
Take a Drink: every time a character drinks red wine.
Take a Shot: Woman Beater Punkass Chris Brown.
Last Call: More Kevin Hart zaniness.