By Dwight Brown NNPA Film Critic
He said. She said. We’re the same species, but two different genders. It’s fun to be reminded occasionally that our distinct approaches to life and love make for great agitation, misunderstandings and reconciliations.
A group of guys who play basketball together are having female trouble: Dominic (Michael Ealy) a wannabe chef pursues a snooty, aloof lawyer (Taraji P. Henson). Jeremy (Jerry Ferrara) can’t let go of his adolescent video games and it annoys his ambitious live-in girlfriend Kristen (Gabrielle Union). Zeke (Romany Malco) is a serial playboy but he has met his match in Mya (Meagan Good) who has a 90-day, no-sex rule. Michael (Terrence Jenkins) loves his new lady friend Candance (Regina Hall) to the dismay of his overbearing mom (Jenifer Lewis). Bennett (Gary Owen) is happily married, but Cedric (Kevin Hart) is going through a messy divorce.
The guys think they have it over the ladies until the smarter sex gets combat tips from Steve Harvey’s relationship guide book “Act Like a Lady,” Think Like a Man.” It’s like a tsunami has swept the boys’ mojo out to sea. They’re at a complete loss as the ladies make their power play. They need a plan.
The great success of Harvey’s best-selling how-to book makes this romantic comedy one of the most highly anticipated screen adaptations of the year. In some ways the movie does not disappoint, but be prepared for its non-traditional storytelling: Cedric narrates. Steve Harvey interjects advice “Until you get into the mind of a man, you can not get into the game.” There are sequences in which male characters act like a pack of wolves and the females like cunning lionesses. There are romantic scenes, misguided relationships, and personal dramas. Don’t get too put off by the hodge podge format, just sit back and enjoy the ride.
Writers Keith Merryman and David A. Newman, who co-wrote “Friends With Benefits,” bring the spirit of the book to life with cliché characters that establish archetypes. The guys are figments of males you might know, but more superficial. On the other hand, while typical female concerns are depicted, you probably don’t know women this conniving. Just keep in mind that reality has little to do with this film. If you’re looking for real advice about love, relationships and the opposite sex, call Dr. Phil.
Director Tim Story proved adept at channeling the spirit of black male hood in the movie “Barbershop.” Under his tutelage, and that of editor Peter S. Elliot, scenes jerk and flow awkwardly at times. However overall, he gives the sly banter and repartee a rhythm, creates a consistent tone and moves the proceedings along to a warmhearted and surprisingly touching ending.
The comic, ensemble performances balance each other nicely; Jenifer Lewis is deliciously evil, Kevin Hart is funny as the put-upon short guy and Michael Ealy occasionally smolders for the ladies. Surprising cameos by Kelly Rowland, Chris Brown and Wendy Williams add a spark.
“Think Like a Man” is a solid, comic date movie and surprisingly romantic.