“What men want” (2019)
Running time: 117 minutes
Written by: Tina Gordon, Alex Gregory and Peter Huyck
Directed by: Adam Shankman
Featuring: Taraji P. Henson, Aldis Hodge, Richard Roundtree, Wendi McLendon-Covey and Tracy Morgan
Sister: “That’s just Jasmine tea. If you don’t count the weed, and the peyote, and the crack.”
Recently released on DVD and Blu-ray is the remake “What men want” (2019) with a gender swapped cast that takes the original “What women want” (2000) updates the story somewhat with what audiences might expect a pretty routine story and outcome that offers nothing really new in terms of story or anything else really.
The original featured Mel Gibson as a man who after an accident could hear women’s thoughts, this one replaces that male character with Taraji P. Henson, who after years of appearing in support roles now commands leads in her own movies. Henson after her breakout on television with the excellent “Empire” (2015-present) as well as the big screen success of the historical biography “Hidden Figures” (2016) has cemented herself as an actress who can hold her own onscreen as well as portray three dimensional characters no matter the quality of the material which is evident here. One of the reasons that Henson is so effective here as well as almost all the material she is able to perform is that she has a wealth of experience as a true character actor that holds her in good stead as she has appeared in almost every genre as well as working with amazing talent both in front of and behind the camera which adds to her knowledge as not only an actress but someone who is able to choose her projects carefully.
It may be easy and reductive to say that movies that swap male leads for female ones have come about because we are now in a post #metoo environment (as well as some supposed ‘woke’ environment) but that is simply not the case. It is true to say that there are possibly more that have been put into production in the present environment with this one, the recent “Oceans 8” (2018) and the comedy “The Hustle” (2019) which have all met with varying degrees of success, like any other movie. In terms of “What men want” we get a passable comedy that cashes in on this new environment but at the same seems to know exactly what movie this is, a light weight genre piece that is not only instantly forgettable but is not offensive in any way hoping to draw in as many audience members as possible. It succeeds far more than either of the other two movies by actually being funny, as opposed to the terribly unfunny “The Hustle” and not carrying baggage like “Oceans 8” had to as well as cramming in too many leads and sidelining too many actually funny actresses. What this movie does is to place Taraji P. Henson at the centre of the movie and let her do what she does best, that is to actually be funny as well as being the thing that propels the narrative around the plot driving it to its ultimate, and yes predictable conclusion, so that this movie actually works.
“What men want” is based around Ali Davis a successful sports agent who is constantly boxed out by her male colleagues. She expected to be made partner at the agency she works at. However, she does not receive the title since someone did not vote for her. After her boss tells her that part of the reason why she didn’t make partner is basically because she doesn’t connect well with men, she begins to question what more she needs to do to succeed in a man’s world. At her friend Mari’s bachelorette party, Ali and her friends are introduced to a psychic named Sister. Ali and her friends then go out to a club, while dancing, another one of Ali’s friends, Cierra, accidentally bumps her, causing her to fall back and hit her head on the bar counter, becoming unconscious. She wakes up in the hospital and she can hear men’s thoughts. With her newfound power, Ali looks to outsmart her colleagues.
Directed by Adam Shankman who has a long history with not only musicals but comedies as well, he brings his skill to bear here to engage the audience as much as possible although there are certain limitations with the script that keep him from making anything really spectacular or commenting on anything of real social importance even though this seems ripe for exploitation especially with its female cast as well as the fact that its main character is also African-American.
This is a perfectly harmless remake with its strengths definitely built around Henson who shines in almost everything she does. I would recommend this as a rental as it will be a nice entertaining night at home, some laughs and not a lot of baggage to weigh it down with.