Taraji P Henson stars in What Men Want – a story loosely based on the 2000 Mel Gibson comedy What Women Want. This gender-swapped remake looks to add a new spin to a familiar story.
Ali (Henson) is passed over for a promotion at work. After visiting a psychic (played by Erykah Badu) and violently hitting her head while dancing, Ali acquires the ability to hear men’s thoughts. After her initial disgust from hearing every man’s wild thoughts, she decides to use this new found ability to land the #1 pick in the NBA draft and land the big promotion at work.
What could go wrong?
What Men Want is a fantasy comedy that has every element necessary for this type of movie to work. Ali is a hard-nosed agent surrounded by a cast of characters – Brandon (Josh Brener) is the hilarious assistant, Will (Aldis Hodge) is the healthy relationship she needs, and Joe “Dolla” (Tracy Morgan) is the over-the-top dad she needs to win over.
The cast of colorful characters do most of the comedic heavy lifting as Ali fumbles and stumbles through using her powers. Most of the ridiculousness comes courtesy of Tracy Morgan who plays Joe Dolla as a hybrid of his character Tracy Jordan from 30 Rock. Tracy Morgan has a specific range as an actor and Joe Dolla fits perfectly in that range.
The other comedy comes from the films R-rating. Ali hears every dirty, filthy, and nasty thought men have and the script doesn’t pull any punches. There’s a running gag of men acting normal, Ali hears [fill in obscene thing a man thinks], and she reacts like it’s the worst possible thing she’s ever heard. It’s a funny bit, but the script goes to that well a few too many times.
Moviegoers will love seeing Taraji in a rom-com using her powers to level the playing field with her male co-workers. For people who love rom-coms, they’ll enjoy how simple and to the point the romance and comedy is. The story is as matter-of-fact as the trailers and poster let on. You can turn off your brain and enjoy watching Ali’s journey.
If you’re looking for an interesting twist or a fun take on this story, you’ll leave disappointing. Neither the jokes or plot try anything interesting.
The biggest gripes with the film are how so-so the script is, the painful predictability of the story, and the run time. The film comes in a hair under 2hrs and there’s no reason the film should be more than 90 minutes. Cutting down the run time and shaving a few of the gags that get repeated would’ve helped.
Director Adam Shankman does a good job taking familiar material and making it enjoyable but script doesn’t spend enough time making Ali or the story interesting. . What Men Want isn’t groundbreaking and doesn’t bring anything new to the genre. It’s as predictable and cliché as it is funny. It feels more like a Netflix original people could enjoy at home than a rom-com that demands to be seen in theaters.