What men should want is not to be dragged to this movie for Valentine’s Day. And what men – and women – deserve is a stronger spin on a plot device that worked quite well in Nancy Meyers’ 2000 romantic comedy What Women Want, starring Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt. Gibson (before he went all weird on us) played a chauvinistic executive who learned something about himself – and his treatment of women – after a mishap gave him the ability to hear women’s inner thoughts. This time around, the genders are reversed. Taraji P. Henson plays Ali Davis, a successful sports agent in Atlanta who gains the ability to hear men’s inner thoughts. She hopes to use her newfound power (a blessing and a curse) to score a high-profile client, and land the promotion she is entitled to in the boy’s club that is her workplace.
Henson (Hidden Figures, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, TV’s Empire) definitely has the acting chops to deftly balance comedy and drama. The problem is the material itself. What Men Want simply doesn’t hang together very well. It has some funny moments, but they are offset by overly formulaic and predictable plot twists, and character ‘turns’ that don’t really track. It lacks the kind of smarts and heart (and strong ensemble) that made Jerry Maguire the gold standard of sports-agent chick flicks.
The supporting cast is serviceable but bloated. Tracy Morgan shares the movie poster with Henson, but that’s only because he’s the most recognizable ‘comedian’ of the bunch. He plays the father (and manager and all-around lifestyle guru) of the young basketball phenom that Ali is trying to sign. Aldis Hodge (who starred with Henson in Hidden Figures) plays Ali’s love interest Will, a single dad who gets unwittingly mixed up in Ali’s shenanigans. Then you’ve got the standard back-up players including the overworked and under-appreciated assistant, the backstabbing co-workers, the gal pals (complete with the obligatory bachelorette party), plus a slew of cameos from the likes of Mark Cuban, Shaquille O’Neal and Erykah Badu (who steals her all-too-few scenes as psychic Sistah). WNBA pioneer Lisa Leslie and NBA player Karl-Anthony Towns appear as themselves to lend an air of authenticity to the sports environs. Unfortunately, great athletes aren’t always the best of actors (anyone remember Kevin Durant in Thunderstruck?)
What Men Want takes a shot at a worthy message, namely that open communication is generally a good thing among men and women, and you’re most likely to find happiness in business and life by following your heart. Aw, shucks. The movie is a bit like a basketball game that promises an exciting match-up but ends up in a blowout. Not a total waste of time, but disappointing.
Better yet, rent this one:
Or, even better, this one: