What Men Want: Film Review

I didn’t really think the 2000 Mel Gibson movie What Women Want warranted a female-led remake but I was at least satisfied with the casting of Taraji P. Henson, who is excellent in Empire. She is a fun, charismatic lead in What Men Want, which isn’t a complete success but has some enjoyable moments.

She stars as Ali who is fighting to become partner at her sports agency firm but she keeps being passed over for men. To prove that she is worthy of the big leagues, she goes up against them to sign basketball up-and-comer Jamal Barry. During this time, she drinks some weird tea from a psychic (Erykah Badu) and hits her head and wakes up being able to hear men’s thoughts. At first she hates her new gift but then she realises it could work to her advantage.

The film takes the central concept of the original movie and flips it but then does it’s own thing. The lead characters have some similarities – they are quite self-absorbed and they’ve missed a big promotion – but the storyline is mostly different. I’m so glad it didn’t borrow from the original too heavily because that would have sucked.

There were a lot of moments to enjoy and I laughed out loud a lot but not everything works. They essentially throw all the jokes at you and hope something resonates when it could have done with some more quality control. There were some amazing zingers – I was a particular fan of her assistant Brandon (Josh Brener) saying, “I didn’t think black people drank tea after Get Out”. Some of the thoughts she hears are hilarious too (although some are totally weird) and the humour was more adult than I was expecting (it’s a 15 here).

Henson’s character in Empire is fierce, sassy and takes no shit from men and that’s basically what she does here. She does it very well though. Ali is so used to fighting for power in a men’s world that she sees them as the competition at all times and has become very self-absorbed and obviously her journey is to fix that. I preferred her when she was giving the character more depth and humility though because those are the times she takes a more realistic acting approach, since she overdoes things for most of the movie. Everything is over the top, particularly at the beginning, and that could have been reined in a bit.

There are a lot of support stars but my favourite was Badu who stole the show as the psychic named Sister. She was so wacky, so much fun and had a very interesting look. I also liked Brener as her sweet and nerdy gay assistant, Max Greenfield as fellow agent Kevin and Aldis Hodge as her love interest Will. Pete Davidson was kinda annoying, Wendi McLendon-Covey was basically a stereotype (although, admittedly, nobody is fleshed out very well) and I’ve never really got Tracy Morgan‘s style of comedy. He was funny enough as Barry’s dad Joe Dolla but he didn’t do it for me.

What Men Want is a bit too long, quite predictable and I kinda wish the writers were more creative about the way she gains her powers, as the hitting the head thing has been done a lot – and very recently in Isn’t It Romantic and I Feel Pretty. But, it is a lot of fun and had a good time with it.

In cinemas from Friday 15th March

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