STARRING Steve Harvey, Kevin Hart, Gabrielle Union, Romany Malco, Regina Hall, Taraji P. Henson, Michael Ealy, Terrence Jenkins DIRECTED BY Tim Story SCREENPLAY Steve Harvey, David A. Newman, Keith Merryman MPAA RATING Rated PG-13 RUNNING TIME 120 Mins. DISTRIBUTED BY Screen Gems DVD EXTRAS Gag Reel; Deleted Scenes; The Guy Code; Men vs. Women; He Said, She Said: Comedy Behind the Scenes
Based upon actor/comic Steve Harvey's "Think Like a Man, Act Like a Woman," Think Like a Man is essentially a two hour infomercial for Harvey's burgeoning cottage industry of self-help novels for the allegedly romantically challenged woman.
Fortunately for Harvey and audiences, Think Like a Man benefits from a talented cast with a solid chemistry that helps to make this otherwise easily forgotten material a reasonably entertaining endeavor that will likely be long forgotten within minutes of having left the movie theater.
The film opens with the obligatory series of romantic scenarios designed to convince what Harvey asserts - that the balance of power in relationships has shifted and women have to "think like a man" in order to get men back.
Why go to all the trouble?
Think Like a Man centers around a group of six friends who get together regularly for basketball. There's the token white guy (Gary Owen), an Italian (Jerry Ferrara, Entourage) and four black men including Dominic (Michael Ealy), Zeke (Romany Malco), Michael (Terrence Jenkins) and Cedric (Kevin Hart). Each man is in some form of a relationship with a woman who has, of course, read Harvey's tome and who is clearly in control of their relationship.
Dominic is with Lauren (Taraji P. Henson), a Fortune 500 COO with a status obsession.
Zeke is with Mya (Meagan Good) in a seemingly perfect relationship except for the fact that Zeke can't seem to get Mya in the bedroom.
Michael is still a mama's boy and his mama (Jenifer Lewis) is getting in the way of his relationship with a single mother, Candace (Regina Hall).
Cedric, on the other hand, is enjoying his freedom after a divorce and resisting the pressure from current girlfriend Kristen (Gabrielle Union) to grow up and give up his beloved video games.
There's nothing brilliant or even that informative here, mostly the obvious ramblings of a best-selling comic who somehow managed to convince his fans that his book was worth reading. Harvey, a talented comic, is a three-times married and twice-divorced guy who's not exactly the first person I think of when I think of who one might go to for relationship advice. Somehow, we're supposed to buy into the idea that all of these otherwise intelligent and beautiful women would have latched onto Harvey's writings and built their lives around it.
Halfway through the film, our guys figure out what's going on and set out to right what has obviously been wrong. Comedy ensues. In some cases, this is actually true.
What hurts Think Like a Man, and it's a bit surprising given the cast involved, is that the film feels remarkably formulaic and methodical and lacks the usual spontaneity and spark that accompanies many of the best African-American ensemble flicks. The film feels like a cousin to the Tyler Perry films, though it aims a bit higher and lacks Perry's broadly expressed emotional variance. Perry is more known for his cinematic extremes, while director Tim Story tends to ride a consistent middle ground for much of the film's running time. This makes Think Like a Man a calmer but less interesting film than most of Perry's films. Story may avoid some of Perry's failures, but he also fails to achieve Perry's successes.
The film also begins to falter once our men figure out what's going on and attempt to play the same game, an effort that dilutes the film of much of its charm and sentimentality. The film also has what feels like a lack of cultural comfort, perhaps owing to the fact that this largely black film was actually written by white screenwriters. One could easily argue that this shouldn't be considered a black film but, quite honestly, it would have worked better that way. It's sort of like when all male writers write a film about women - It may succeed on some level, but it almost always feels a tad out of balance.
As previously noted, Think Like a Man still works better than one might expect largely on the strength of its able and entertaining cast. Kevin Hart is terrific as always here, while Taraji P. Henson can still do no wrong. Romany Malco and Meagan Good are also a joy to watch.
Think Like a Man isn't a bad film, but it just feels like the writers didn't really tap into the Steve Harvey vibe on quite the level that the film deserves. The cast does the best they can to bring this material to life, but Think Like a Man ultimately points out the weakness in Harvey's source material and the importance of hiring just the right screenwriter.