With Chris Brown, Gabrielle Union, Kevin Hart, Michael Ealy, Taraji P. Henson. Written by Keith Merryman, David A. Newman. Directed by Tim Story. Rated PG-13 (for sexual content, some crude humor, and brief drug use). 123 minutes.
THINK LIKE A MAN, a two-hour commercial for stand-up comedian Steve Harvey’s book of the same name, makes one long for the subtlety and wit of one of Tyler Perry’s Madea movies. This unfunny, sexist movie may generate a few laughs if you’re easily amused, but it demonstrates that Hollywood has forgotten how to make romantic comedies.
Cast with an attractive and talented cast of mostly African-American actors, the “story” is about how insightful Harvey’s book is when it comes to men and women. In fact, if the movie is any indication, it seems to think women are selfish manipulators who should withhold sex to get commitment and security. Excuse me, they should “hide the cookie.” This euphemism apparently strikes the screenwriters as so amusing there is extended dialogue about locking “the cookie jar.”
Meanwhile, men are dogs, when they’re not pigs. See, all men fall into broad stereotypes like “the player” (who wants those cookies) and the “Mama’s boy” (who is so tied to the apron strings that he brings his mother along on dates). And if the woman is more successful than the man? She either has to stoke his ambition or abjectly apologize for being so shallow. It’s 2012, and this movie wants to pretend it’s the 1950s.
As we follow the four couples – Kevin Hart plays a fifth friend who is going through a divorce and can’t shut up about it – we realize just how tired and formulaic the stories are. The cast certainly tries to do what they can. Michael Ealy and Taraji P. Henson fare best as the “dreamer” and a corporate executive. He’s working in food service and hopes to have his own restaurant someday. She’s pulling down six figures. Can they have a future together?
Meanwhile, “player” Romany Malco and newly chaste Meagan Good are trapped in a bad sitcom sketch, but at least get to look good as their story plays out. There’s no excuse for the other two stories. In one, “Mama’s boy” Terrence J is dating single mom Regina Hall, and has to decide who’s number one in his life. In the other case of arrested development, Jerry Ferrara refuses to grow up and be an adult, and Gabrielle Union is wondering if she should cut him loose.
Harvey’s book – apparently second only to the Gideon Bible in appearing everywhere – is the engine for each of these weak plots. First, the women use it to learn how to manipulate the men. Then, the men get wise, get their own copies of the book, and use it to manipulate the women. Finally, both the men and the women put the book aside, are honest with each other, and everyone enjoys a happy ending.
If you want your own happy ending, you might put the book and the movie aside. There are many great date night romantic comedies. “Think Like A Man” is not one of them.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books, the most recent being Jar Jar Binks Must Die… And Other Observations About Science Fiction Movies. He teaches film at Suffolk University and lives in Somerville.