A ‘Think’-less job
Meagan Good, La La Anthony and Romany Malco in “Think Like a Man,” a film adapted from Steve Harvey’s book.
Updated: April 19, 2012 1:14PM
THINK LIKE A MAN
★ ★ 1/2
There’s not really a lot of deep thought going on about male/female relationships or anything else in “Think Like a Man,” a reasonably entertaining romantic comedy aimed at women (though it was written and directed by men), as it basically defaults to a battle-of-the-sexes scenario.
It’s a sneaky, double-dealing, ideological sort of warfare, more along the lines of espionage than full-tilt combat, but it still reduces romantic relationships to the same old no-rules, winner-take-all, struggle-for-dominance mindset, which is kind of a shame. New ideas would be welcome. “Think Like a Man” underscores sexist cliches about both men and women and seems to take it for granted that they should exist in armed camps on opposite sides of the gender divide. It’s a comedy, though, fortunately, so the losers (the men, of course) are happy to lay down their arms in the interest of true love and everyone lives happily ever after.
At least until the rematch in divorce court.
One odd thing about “Think Like a Man” is that it was executive-produced and co-written by comedian-radio personality-game show host Steve Harvey, based on his own best-selling book of apparently more-or-less serious relationship advice: Act Like a Lady; Think Like a Man. The idea of the book being that women will never win in the game of love until they can learn to think like ... their opponents.
In one sense, the film is a feature-length infomercial for the book. Harvey appears intermittently, either dispensing romantic advice in talk-show interviews or in filmed inserts between scenes, giving the inside scoop on the male animal: “We’re kind of like dogs; pet us and we’ll be loyal to you forever.”
In another, it’s a fully functional romance in which career woman Lauren (Taraji P. Henson), single mom Candace (Regina Hall), frequently dumped Mya (Meagan Good) and frustrated fiancee Kristen (Gabrielle Union) use the secrets in Harvey’s book to manipulate the men in their lives. Which works fine until non-committer Jeremy (Jerry Ferrara), dreamer Dominic (Michael Ealy), player Zeke (Romany Malco) and mama’s boy Michael (Terrence Jenkins) find out about the book and turn the tables — for awhile, anyway. All this with happily divorced (or is he?) Cedric (comic Kevin Hart) providing outraged color commentary from the sidelines.
“Think Like a Man” is at its best in those moments when the demands of promoting Harvey’s book (with dramatized case studies such as “The Mama’s Boy vs. the Single Mom” and “The Non-Committer vs. the Woman Who Wants a Ring”) slip into the background and the likable cast can relax and let chemistry take over and make the most of the film’s snappy-patter script (co-written by the male co-authors of last year’s “Friends With Benefits”). Director Tim Story scored his biggest hits with the “Fantastic Four” and its 2007 sequel, but “Think Like a Man” has much more in common with his best, 2002’s “Barbershop,” with its warm ensemble somehow accommodating dialogue that sounded like standup comedy.
“Think Like a Man” is nowhere near as good as “Barbershop,” but it is frequently funny, especially when it’s taking potshots at Tyler Perry movies. And it’s nice that, while the lion’s share of the laugh lines go to Hart (who’s quite good as the apoplectic Cedric), Harvey gives most of the characters a few nice zingers — including the women.
In fact, Jenifer Lewis, who plays the formidable mother of mama’s boy Michael, may get in the best shot when she hears about Harvey’s book and is mightily unimpressed. “Oh yeah,” she sniffs. “He’s that big-head boy who’s on ‘Family Feud.’ ”