“WHAT MEN WANT” stars Taraji P. Henson and Aldis Hodge. Directed by Adam Shankman this is the gender swap story of “What Women Want” from 2000 that starred Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt. In this one Henson plays sports agent that unexpectedly gains the ability to hear what men are thinking. Something that could either come in handy for her in a male dominant profession or hinder it. Now this movie will have some of people off the bandwagon prior to checking it out and that’s a person’s prerogative if they so choose. Not every film will be to everyone’s taste and when taking an old story and simply gender swapping it, many will view it as a lazy attempt at creating a new story from an old one. Something this movie never denies attempting to do.
But this is Hollywood. Cutting and pasting, flipping and flopping happens every day in this business so for that aspect I went into this movie with a blank slate and zero preconceived notions. Simply hoping to see a story that could make me laugh. I know many will take offense to the generalization of a story claiming it knows what a certain sex thinks and feels. But this is a formulaic comedy focusing on stereotypes. Not a script actually claiming to know the serious thoughts of the other sex. This is a recreational comedy. One built to deliver simple laughs off of cliché generalizations. This is not a deep-dive written by a Nobel-prize winning psychologist exploring the cognitive thinking or mental processes of male and female brain patterns.
I apologize for running on. I did take the wordy route in saying this is a movie to not be taken seriously. So as a male, I went in looking for things to make me laugh. Not looking for inaccuracies to be offended or upset by. With that mindset I laughed a lot throughout the movie which is what a comedy should be focused on accomplishing. I’m a person that can find enjoyment from a wide range of humor and this one worked for me. Sure, there are a ton of generic attempts at humor, and some crude jokes that many will call juvenile and possibly lazy. But there was also a collection of genuinely amusing scenes that had me laughing out loud.
The story follows many genre and plot tropes and there isn’t a ton of unpredictability to grab on to. It also does run a little long and gets a little too cute at times, particularly in the closing-act. It does force the humor in many instances, but a ton of good comedies have forced humor and will continue to have such. For me, the amount of this material that hits with laughs is what counts and this one had me laughing, grinning and chuckling routinely. Therefore, I was invested in the routine story, and connected to the plug-and-play characters. Primarily because of the performance from Henson in the lead and the supporting cast around her.
I thought Henson brought this film a very charming and energized lead. She was comical in both her dialogue delivery, and with her physical acting. She was very expressive, frequently animated with her gestures and mannerisms which sold me on her comical reactions to the many situations thrown at her throughout the story. Sure, we can already see her character-arc before even watching the movie, but Henson in my opinion was still able to carry this film on her shoulders. Like I mentioned, the supporting cast was great. Aldis Hodge as the love interest felt very natural and comfortable in the role and he landed some authentic reactionary humor that I felt was amusing.
I found enjoyment from Josh Brener as her assistant and felt he landed some good laughs as he deals with the situations alongside Henson at times. Richard Roundtree comes in with a subtle, but capable performance as her father. I felt their scenes together were the most genuine in the movie and their chemistry made a solid impression. Tracy Morgan was being Tracy Morgan, sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. But despite all that, even if this is a recycled story with plug-and-play characters types, I think the cast pumped some fun life into the supporting characters to keep the flow going.
So, despite this one not feeling overly unique it still showed some effort in spinning the dialogue to create fresh humor. Some of it succeeds, some doesn’t. But I laughed frequently throughout, which was all that I was asking for. I will say that if you watch the trailers and find what you see funny, then give this one a shot. Because the trailers and promo-material certainly got a chuckle out of me and the movie ended up delivering exactly what I was expecting, and I had much more fun with it than I thought I would.