Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Think Like a Man

Directed by Tim Story.
2012. Rated PG-13, 122 minutes.
Taraji P. Henson
Gabrielle Union
Regina Hall
Michael Ealy
Jerry Ferrara
Romany Malco
Terrence J
Gary Owen
La La Anthony
Chris Brown
Arielle Kebbel

Morris Chestnut

The battle of the sexes rages on. Think Like a Man takes the phrase quite literally. It’s based on the relationship advice book for women Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man by famed comedian and “Family Feud” host Steve Harvey. It never lets you forget this fun fact. More on that later. The movie focuses on a group of young men and women at various stages of their love lives. The guys are a tight knit bunch who discuss their successes and failures with women over many games of basketball. Rest assured, there is far more chit-chat than basketball. Afterwards, they continue their conversation at their favorite bar. The women are broken into three sets of two. One woman from two of those sets and one of the guys is totally irrelevant. The ladies that matter see Steve Harvey dropping pearls of wisdom during a television interview and decide to go out and purchase his book. It must be a real page turner because it seems they all have it read moments after coming into its possession. Armed with the knowledge Mr. Harvey has imparted upon them, they wage war on the men in their lives in hopes of straightening them up. Of course, all of their guys belong to that tight knit group. Keep up.

There are a good deal of laughs to be had. Almost all of them come courtesy of Cedric (Hart). Ironically, he’s one of the least relevant male characters as it pertains to plot. However, he has to be here because he provides the overwhelming majority of the comedy in this romantic comedy. His character is nearing the finalization of his divorce. He bad mouths his ex, hangs out at strip clubs and warns his buddies about dealing with their woman. He also serves as one of the narrators. In this role, he provides a running commentary on all the goings-on.

Everyone else handles the romance. The girls quote passages from the book, plot and make their next move. The boys are caught off guard and react poorly to what the ladies are doing. Eventually they discover the book for themselves and form their own strategies. Most of this unfolds in an enjoyable, if predictable manner. Like most rom-coms it has an air of inevitability about it because we know that no matter how contentious things get all of our princes and princesses will live happily ever after. It’s when the movie transitions from warfare to reconciliation that it drags badly. This is mostly due to the large number of storylines to be wrapped up. After all, we have to see that magic moment when a couple realizes they can’t live without each other play out five times.

The bigger problem with the movie is all the narration. Kevin Hart is only one of the people fulfilling the role of narrator. Steve Harvey himself serves as the second. He pops up every so often on a TV screen to quote his own work and set us up for the next scene. The effect is two-fold. First, it becomes a film that doesn’t trust its audience to follow the action on its own. Viewers are spoon-fed everything the film wants us to know from beginning to end. Second, it begins to feel like a long commercial for the book. Honestly, it gets more screen time than most of the actors and never more than a few moments pass before someone explicitly mentions it.

Beneath the issues, there is a fun but predictable movie. It never really threatens to be anything more. However, it is also nothing less. It earns extra-credit from me for a couple of jokes at Tyler Perry’s expense even though several of the performers here have appeared at least one of that director's films. TLaM is one of the increasingly rare movies to feature a predominantly black cast and not have his name attached. As such, it offers a different perspective on black life and a different style of storytelling. It’s no more or less valid than Perry’s work but a desperately needed complement. Hopefully, this will inspire Hollywood to widen the spectrum on what types of stories are produced not only about blacks but about other ethnicities, as well. Of course, the danger here is that powers that be will do what they always do and simply start cloning a few successful films. On that, my fingers are crossed but I’m not holding my breath.

No comments:

Post a Comment