SP Review: 'What Men Want' tries as a remake, falls flat

Arts and culture reporter Brandon King gives 'What Men Want' 5.5/10 stars

Everything can be forgiven in a comedy if it's funny enough, but the best comedies are the ones that go beyond the laughs and have some actual insight.

Then there's the comedies that are neither funny or smart enough which put my generosity to the test. Adam Shankman's new film "What Men Want" is an example of one of those, but has redeaming qualities that makes it watchable enough.

A remake of Nancy Meyers' "What Women Want," the film definitely aims for more ideas and is consistently funnier than its predecessor, but ends up feeling empty in terms of its endgame.

Ali Davis (played by Taraji P. Henson) is a sports agent who is constantly belittled by her male colleagues despite her success within the company. After being denied a promotion, Ali goes out for a night on the town with her friends, which includes seeing a psychic named Sister (played by Erykah Badu), who gives her some tea to take her mind off things.

After drinking the tea, Ali bumps her head while dancing, winds up in the hospital and wakes up to discover that she has gained the ability to read the thoughts of the men around her. 

After initially thinking this is a curse, she realizes she can use this ability to her advantage. This includes attempting to sign a young basketball player named Jamal Barry (played by Shane Paul McGhie) who has an overprotective father (played by Tracy Morgan) and getting closer to a Will (played by Aldis Hodge), a single father who she's been dating. 

There are a good amount of similarities between this film and the original, but one key difference is the likability of the lead characters. Henson's character is simply more charming and fun to watch compared to Mel Gibson's in the original. 

A lot of the credit for the film actually goes to Henson, who has proven herself an incredibly talented actress in recent projects like "Hidden Figures" and "Empire," and this film definitely gives her creative wiggle room. 

Not every comedic moment in the film works, but Henson helps the film move along and gives expressions and life to much of the dialogue that is admittedly not that great.

The film also attempts to address some legitimate gender issues like workplace harassment and how the double standards of 'strong men' and 'bossy women' are often more prevalent in society than we realize. There's are scenes in the film that at least attempt to offer some sort of nuance to those discussions, and I found those admirable. 

However, the film never addresses these issues head on, putting an early 2000s sitcom filter over a mildly raunchy comedy.

Aside from some laughs and being invested in Henson's character, I didn't take much away from the film.

The star performance is there, but is drowned out by cliché writing; the laughs are there, but are too predictable; and the ideas are there, but are never seem fully developed, often resorting to surface level notions about both genders that feel overdone.

Overall, "What Men Want" deserves to be smarter than it is, and I couldn't help but feel a bit let down after it ended. For a film tackling ideas that seem prime for exploration in 2019, there isn't enough to think of or laugh at to make it great, and that's disappointing. 

Overall, I give "What Men Want" a rating of 5.5/10 stars.


Reach the reporter at brandon.D.King@asu.edu or follow @TheMovieKing45 on Twitter.

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