A battle of the sexes worthy of Ken Burns

Think Like a Man

on April 19, 2012 by Todd Gilchrist
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thinklikeamanreview.pngImagine a version of He's Just Not That Into You starring a primarily African-American cast, all of whom actually read the book that's inspired their romantic misadventures, and you have a good handle on Think Like a Man. A battle-of-the-sexes comedy that carefully balances the oddsif not our sympathiesfor both genders, Tim Story's latest offers the same kind of smart, funny sensitivity that distinguished the director's 2002 breakthrough, Barbershop. A winning cast and solid writing from screenwriters Keith Merryman and David A. Newman (Friends With Benefits) should appeal to men and women alike, and keep the film in theaters for a few weeksor at least until the tidal wave of summer blockbusters washes smaller competition like this away.

Think Like a Man is neither adapted from nor inspired by Steve Harvey's self-help book Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man: in the film's world, just like our own, Harvey's tome is a best-seller that women buy in droves, even if they read it with suspicion. While a tight-knit group of male friends meets regularly to celebrate their conquests and commiserate about their relationships, their female counterparts pore over Harvey's words, aiming to level the playing fieldor better, get a leg upon how to secure a man without sacrificing what they need. But when the guys discover Harvey's book has essentially laid bare all of their schemes, plans and expectations, they decide to wield it themselves to turn the tables on their ladies and regain the upper hand.

Not unlike He's Just Not That Into You, there's a remarkable diversity of relationships in Think Like a Man's ensemble-driven narrative: Dominic (Michael Ealy) aspires to be a chef and worries his low-rent digs will turn off Lauren (Taraji P. Henson), a high-powered executive; lothario Zeke (Romany Malco) meets his match when Mya (Meagan Good) tests his interest by instituting a 90-day waiting period before having sex; over-committed Michael (Terrence J.) finds himself juggling the demands of both his mother Loretta (Jenifer Lewis) and hot single mom Candace (Regina Hall); and Jeremy's (Jerry Ferrara) comfortable long-term relationship with Kristen (Gabrielle Union) gets shaken up when she decides it's time for him to make a more serious commitment. The film explores the comedic possibilities while anchoring its characters in a believable worldit's only two extreme examples are one of complete marital harmony (via Gary Owen's dutiful husband) and scornful ex-husband (courtesy of Kevin Hart's strip club-loving divorcee).

Merryman and Newman dial back the clichés in order to let the chemistry of the characters work things out. Importantly, the film never vilifies either gender nor accept immature or inappropriate behavior. In an early scene between Lauren and Candace, the two women banter back and forth about their expectations and both give as good as they get, calling one another out while remaining supportive and sympathetic. Similarly, there's plenty of macho banter between the guys, but they keep each other in check, offer real perspective, and maintain a consistent sense of reality even when, say, Hart's character is ranting about how he used to entertain his wife by balancing a chocolate-dipped strawberry on his thong underwear. For the most part, the relationships between the men and women are built on substantial foundations, and their evolution feels natural-or at least naturally scripted rather than pure Hollywood plastic.

The ultimate takeaway is that the best way to make a woman happy is to do what she wants, but the film doesn't seem to want that as its moral. But the writing fails to observe the balance that emerges from a relationship in which one partner supports and encourages the other's dreams in a way that makes them feel empowered and motivated. And the player Zeke's seduction skills are so effortless and constant that we never get a clear sense of the change he's making-or the feelings he's developingby spending time with Mya. When a rift erupts between the two of them, it isn't clear exactly what about her he connected with other than the fact she's blindingly hot.

Nevertheless, performances by the cast add dimension to the characters even when they're just going through the motions of boilerplate rom-com cliché. Malco's by far the most likeable player ever portrayed in a movie of this type. Henson continues to prove she's one of the most versatile and formidable leading ladies in Hollywood. Playing a powerful COO, she never sacrifices her femininity even when she's made fun of for being mannish. Ealy is smart and sensitive as the would-be chef who rightfully breaks through her defenses. Union conveys palpable intelligence and patience as a girlfriend who's trying to help her man uncover his maturity. And even Hart manages to turn his anti-relationship rants into funny, self-deprecating speeches that reinforce how out of touch he iswith himself more than anyone.

The film's secret weapon may be Gary Owen (best known for the sitcom House of Payne), who looks like a guy who just wandered in off the street, and yet manages to effortlessly communicate a mature point of view about relationships to friends who have yet to make those discoveries for themselves. But that's also what makes the film as a whole work: it's smart enough to know how these relationships could clickand why they don'teven if the story indulges in both the set-up drama and happy resolution. Rather than devoting endless conversations and comic set pieces to the idea that if you wait long enough, you'll never have to change, and you'll get what you want (see: every Kate Hudson movie), the film's aware that being with another person isn't all meet-cute and easy resolutions. In other words, Think Like a Man knows that relationships take effort, but that the secret is combining work and playwhich is why it's both a fun two hours at the theater and the start of a thoughtful conversation with your significant other on the way home.

Distributor: Sony Screen Gems
Cast: Chris Brown, Gabrielle Union, Kevin Hart, Regina Hall, Taraji P. Henson, Jennifer Lewis, Terrence Jenkins
Director: Tim Story
Screenwriters: Keith Merryman, David A. Newman
Producer: William Packer
Genre: Romantic comedy
Rating: PG-13 for sexual content, some crude humor, and brief drug use
Running time: 123 min.
Release date: April 20, 2012

 

Tags: William Packer, David A. Newman, Keith Merryman, Terrence Jenkins, Jennifer Lewis, Taraji P. Henson, Regina Hall, Kevin Hart, Gabrielle Union, Chris Brown
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3 Comments

  • ahealthydrink on 22 April 2012

    This movie was so well written and is unlike any other movie I have ever seen!!! Tim Story & Keith Merryman took their time and looked at many aspects involved in relationships in the 20th century. His writing definitely shows the BALANCE that emerges from a relationship in which one partner supports and encourages the other partner's dreams, and we saw how empowered and motivated it makes the other partner feel to know somebody has your back in your relationship. I liked the way they showed the player continuously playing until he woke up realized this is not a game, this is LIFE!!!

    ALL of the characters gave different (mature & immature) points of view about their relationships, thus bringing the movie to a whole new level each time something new was revealed. I like the fact that every one's role was diverse in that each of their personalities brought out a real sense of how we actually do think, act, and date in the real world. Some of us may have learned some new ways of thinking and responding to situations we may be in now.

    Thank you Tim, Keith, & Steve for using your genius writing and comedic skills to give us a blockbuster comedy that will forever have our eyes and ears open as we become involved in future relationships that may just lead to happiness!!! 5 Stars!!!

    • OneBadMoFocka77 on 19 May 2012

      while i will say Tim & Keith are good writer's. However Lets Dissect this Chaotic Film.The Flow with ok Real Life to A Certain Point Of View.Then Like CLOCKWORK ( cause all these type of films do this )there Mis-Direct the TRUE UNDERSTANDING OF Real Relationships In 21st Century. Hollywood has this Consistent Following " ohh k america were are going to show you How to Produce & Maintain a relationship " ....like seriously WHY do we need Hollywood to Tell us how to live our live hood.Plenty of other people ( male & female ) feel the same way i do.So why can't Hollywood STOP there TIRADE of ROM-COM's that have the Most Stereotypical Cliche's Constantly.for Ex.Kevin Heart's Character(he frequent's strip clubs ???) what is this 80's the 90's.maybe some do.but Me & other's we have better time then too stare at a bunch of skanks for dollars.TIME IS MONEY & MONEY DON'T GETS MADE.It Doesn't Fall In your Lap.then he ( as you said )"woke up & realized; this is life "....??? what a bunch of Stereotypical Crap.Why Because He's Single & Can Screw Any & Every Woman without Repercussions & The Drawn Out Arguments.??? When Will People ( Hollywood including ) Every SINGLE GUY IS NOT THE SAME. STOP STEREOTYPING THEM & ME. men who are SINGLE Choose TO BE not because they Can't get A Date or they're have bad hair or whatever.furthermore women are just as if more Possibly EVIL when it comes TO DOWN TALKING to the Opposite gender.you constantly see little girls calling boys disgusting & fata** & other hurtful names just visit ANY elementary school district.The Teens & 20 year old Adult Females are ANIMALS compared to us.THEY Drink like a FISH & when situtations get to serious they're like Whoaa o-k time out( as if there playing PS3 and they pushed the PAUSE Button ).and if any guy thats present doesn't offer assistance weather it be Sexual or drop her home. they Always Scream Out FALSE ALLEGATIONS & Fake Stories to COVER up their WHORISH Activities. its DISGUSTING how this Generation of the dating world & the Single Adult world IS. which is the reason why i have friends & female friends who reside in Foreign nations. they're NOT nearly as BAD as American Girls & the Personalities are WAY BETTER.

  • OneBadMoFocka77 on 19 May 2012

    ookay, for all that are saying the writing is good & tim and keith did an excellent job..yada yada yada. ookay. YES i will agree on that factor there.But ITS SOO CONSTANTLY TIRESOME OF ROM-COM'S HAVE the Same Formulaic Approach. This MOVIE To ME IN my POV;didn't salvage that at all.the problem is if you READ what the Author said in the 3rd paragraph From the Bottom going to the TOP.He specifically States" Ultimately If You Give Into What a Women Wants Then Things Will Go Better For You ".....ARE YOU SERIOUS ????? sounds too me a movement towards Anti-Male Demographics & Pro-Feminism on the RISE with Films LIKE THIS.furthermore why would any one Take Advice From A Comedian Who's Been Through like How Many Marriages.So is that how it Goes in USA; You have to Be Divorced like 5 -10 Times TO BECOME A DR.Phil Clone.Everybody Calls you an Expert. SORRY But I'LL PASS On THIS & The NEXT PIECE OF CRAP THAT'S CARBON'D COPIED IN THE FUTURE.

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