Movie review – Romance by the book

2012-05-04 09:43

Film: Think Like a Man (Ster-Kinekor)
Director: Tim Story
Featuring: Michael Ealy, Meagan Good, Regina Hall, Kevin Hart, Gabrielle Union, Chris Brown and Taraji P Henson
Rating: 7/10

Were you aware that comedian and radio personality Steve Harvey had written a self-help book for women titled Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man? By the end of the new movie Think Like a Man, you will have no doubt in your mind that Harvey has written a book titled Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man.

Mainly because the characters in the movie keep talking about Harvey and his book, Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man. And even Harvey pops up to discuss his book, Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man.

If you don’t mind enduring the film’s infomercial aspects, Think Like a Man winds up being an entertaining romantic comedy covering the very familiar ground of the differences between men and women, and the strategies that women must employ to get men to put that ring on their finger. Once Harvey himself disappears about halfway through, the movie has an easier time finding its own voice.

Comedian Kevin Hart plays a man in the throes of a divorce, and he narrates the romantic misadventures of his closest friends. Think Like a Man reveals its willingness to treat its characters as archetypes early on – for instance, Hart’s character introduces us to The Dreamer and The Momma’s Boy – which makes it easy never to learn the names of any of the people on screen. (Well, except for Meagan Good’s Mya, but only because of a running gag in which a former one-night stand keeps running into her and calling her “Michelle” and a bunch of other incorrect names that being with “M”.)

Realtor Kristen (Gabrielle Union) has lived with man-child Jeremy (Jerry Ferrara) since college but can’t get him to propose. Single mother Candace (Regina Hall) falls for Michael (Terrence J), but he hasn’t quite cut the umbilical cord to his own overbearing mother (Jenifer Lewis). High-powered businesswoman Lauren (Taraji P Henson) wants a man who won’t be intimidated by her swimming-with-the-sharks lifestyle, so would-be chef Dominic (Michael Ealy) has to pretend to be as rich and powerful as she is, even though he’s broke and between gigs. And Mya wants a man who will stick around, so she forces notorious player Zeke (Romany Malco) to wait 90 dates before he gets what she refer to as “the cookie”.

All of these women turn to, you guessed it, Harvey’s Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man for advice, which works up to the point when the men figure out what they’re up to and start reading the book themselves. Will the women figure out that the men are creating fake versions of themselves to please their ladies? Or will the men discover that they actually want to live up to their Harvey-inspired phony personas?

There’s not a single conversation that isn’t about the mechanics of dating, or some other issue of conflict between the genders, but this cast is so uniformly engaging and charismatic that they make the whole thing work.

Even saddled with an adaptation that’s constantly calling attention to the source material, the screenwriters keep the dialogue sprightly and the relationships interesting. It’s not uncommon for movies to cram one white girl or one black guy into a group of friends for diversity’s sake, but this is one of a very few movies where a mixed-race collection of pals feels totally organic.

Perhaps the greatest achievement of Think Like a Man is that it gives criminally underused actresses like Union, Good and Henson the chance to star in a movie that appreciates their talents.


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