FILM REVIEW: THINK LIKE A MAN

By Michael Phillips 2014-07-11

Tribune Newspapers Critic

3 stars

Relaxed yet lively, the byplay in "Think Like a Man" has some of the spark of director Tim Story's "Barbershop" a decade ago. The movie may be the very definition of contrivance, coming as it does from the blithely sexist relationship guide "Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man," co-written by radio host and comedian Steve Harvey. Considering its source, though, one of the more unpromising comedies of the year has turned out ... pretty funny.

Few best-sellers ever got that way underestimating the American public's taste for generalities about the gender wars. Harvey's 2009 "how to" divides humans into two camps: those with "the cookie" (women) and the cookie monsters (men). Harvey and co-writer Denene Millner categorize the ones with the cookies as either "sports fish" or those deserving of the label of "keeper," someone who "understands her power and wields it like a samurai sword."

As another best-seller put it, it's Mars and Venus and never the twain shall meet. "A woman's love," writes Harvey, "is emotional, nurturing, heartfelt -- sweet and kind and all-encompassing." But as he later writes, "Please understand: the way we men connect is by having sex. Period." Elsewhere Harvey's song of himself comes down to unseemly braggadocio, as when he surveys the symbols of his accomplishments as a provider, a father, a man: "... the leather chairs, the dogs outside, the cars in the yard, college tuition for my kids -- everything is paid for, everything is set." Wouldn't it be nice.

How did director Story and screenwriters Keith Merryman and David A. Newman ("Friends With Benefits") squeeze an enjoyable film out of this? By retaining Harvey's archetypes but getting creative about humanizing the people wearing the labels. The guys consist of The Player (Romany Malco), The Mama's Boy (Terrence J), The Dreamer (Michael Ealy), The Non-Committer (Jerry Ferrara), The Happily Married Guy (Gary Owen) and The Happily Divorced Guy (Kevin Hart). Their ladies, former, current and future, break down into equally slick headlines. Meagan Good is The 90-Day Rule Girl, tired of casual sex but, after reading a certain best-seller by Mister Steve Harvey, eager to enforce the 90-Day rule (no cookies until the fourth month). And so on.

As the movie jumps from one couple to the next, with everybody stealing strategies and counter-strategies from the same best-seller by Mister Steve Harvey (who appears on screen as well), a funny thing happens. We begin to care about how some of these folks work it out. Scenes entirely off the plot, set on the basketball court or in a bar, generate real laughs. And it's a pleasure to see Taraji P. Henson dig down into a cliche, that of a high-powered, tightly wound businesswoman (known here, queasily, as "The Woman Who Is Her Own Man"), and come back with someone a little bit complicated. Compare Henson's work here to Janet Jackson swallowing the more melodramatic "Why Did I Get Married Too?" whole, and you have the difference between a sparkling team player playing with equally strong cohorts, and a one-gulp solo act.

"Think Like a Man" is what it is. But its hangout factor is considerable, because the actors' charms are considerable. Also, Story likes to keep two or more performers in the same shot at the same time, which means the actors are allowed to interact. The verbal jokes are often unexpected and often witty. Compared to certain holiday-themed Garry Marshall ensemble comedies I won't be re-watching on New Year's Eve or Valentine's Day, this one sticks to a formula without falling prey to it.

MPAA rating: PG-13 (for sexual content, some crude humor and brief drug use).

Running time: 2:00.

Cast: Romany Malco (Zeke); Meagan Good (Mya); Gabrielle Union (Kristen); Kevin Hart (Cedric); Taraji P. Henson (Lauren), Jerry Ferrara (Jeremy).

Credits: Directed by Time Story; written by the Steve Harvey, David A. Newman and Keith Merryman; produced by William Packer. A Screen Gems release.

Back to Movie Details

Movie News

Stallone and stars promote 'Expendables' in AsiaStallone, Schwarzenegger to promote 'Expendables' franchise in Asia
The Associated Press6 hours ago
FILE - In this Nov. 8, 1984 file photo, Kadam Singh, a New Delhi Sikh, has a bandage across his head for an injury after he was beaten by Hindu mobs in a clash. India has blocked the release of a film on the assassination of former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, saying it glorifies her killers and could trigger violent protests, officials said Friday, Aug. 22, 2014. India's film certification board said the film glorified the two Sikh bodyguards who killed Gandhi to avenge her suppression of an insurgency that culminated in an army assault on the Golden Temple, Sikhism's holiest shrine. (AP Photo/Jim Bourdier, FIle)
India blocks film on Indira Gandhi assassinationIndia blocks release of film on Indira Gandhi's killing, says it glorifies her assassins
The Associated Press12 hours ago
FILE - This April 17, 2014 file photo shows plaintiff Michael Egan speaking during a news conference in Beverly Hills, Calif.  Egan, a former child model accusing “X-Men” director Bryan Singer of sex abuse in Hawaii said he wants to dismiss the lawsuit _ not because it lacks merit but because he can’t find a new attorney to represent him. Michael Egan III said in a court filing Wednesday, Aug. 20, that he previously sought the dismissal in sealed documents in federal court in Honolulu. He wants the case dismissed without prejudice, meaning he could file it again later. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)
Accuser of 'X-Men' director seeks case dismissalAccuser of 'X-Men' director says he can't find new lawyer, seeks dismissal of Hawaii case
The Associated Press1 day ago
Actor and St. Louis native Jon Hamm addresses the media prior to a baseball game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Cincinnati Reds, Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, in St. Louis. Hamm is being honored tonight by the Cardinals with a give-away promotion, and portions of proceeds from the purchase of promotional tickets being donated to St. Jude Children's Medical Research Hospital in his honor. (AP Photo/Scott Kane)
Jon Hamm hopes Ferguson will come out stronger'Mad Men's' Jon Hamm backs the protesters in Ferguson, hopes city will emerge stronger
The Associated Press1 day ago
This image released by The Weinstein Company shows Joseph Gordon-Levitt in a scene from, "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For." (AP Photo/The Weinstein Company)
Review: 'Sin City' dives back into a noir abyssFilm Review: 'Sin City: A Dame to Kill For" dives back into a noir abyss
The Associated Press1 day ago
Movie News