A romantic comedy centered on a relationship expert who cannot keep his own love life in order.
Once upon a time four friends – Dominic, Jeremy, Cedric and Michael – found themselves trapped in a book advertisement masquerading as a sit-com plot masquerading as their lives. It’s a world where men and women view their lives as a permanent battle of opposite desires which can only be overcome through the relationship equivalent of get rich quick schemes. Schemes that reduce human beings to stereotypes and clichés and human interactions into easily digestible rules and sound bytes. This is the world of Steve Harvey’s “Act Like a Woman, Think Like a Man” (and its ilk) and its film-cum-advertisement adaptation.
Our four friends each of their own approach to the relationship department. Jeremy (Jerry Ferrara) is settled down but ignores his long-time girlfriend’s (Gabrielle Union) desire for him to grow up. Michael (Terrence J) is a successful womanizer who looks for little beyond the next night’s pleasure, and Cedric (Kevin Hart) is going through a painful divorce making him bitter about all relationships. In fact the only one among the three who actually does seem to care what women actually think is Dominic (Michael Ealy), who unfortunately does not put as much effort into his own life. Or in the world of Tim Story’s “Think Like A Man,” just typical guys.
Little do they realize that the women are on to them. Thanks to a helpful little book also called “Think Like A Man,” they have been clued into the fact that men really are just a bunch of a clichés and with a few simple rules they can be easily tricked into behaving how the women want them to, without even realizing it. Because everyone knows tricking is better than talking, right?
It’s the sort of super simplification that has played so heavily in television of the decades, where characters aren’t supposed to be human beings; they’re supposed to be set-ups for jokes. And it shouldn’t come as a surprise when that formula shows up in film as well. Trying to get as many people as possible to take something similar out of the same piece of work requires an immense amount of generalization and repetition, right down to the easiest to foresee plot contrivances.
While our friend’s new relationship’s at first seem like exactly what they want, even if they don’t know they want them, it’s not long before the men find out the women in their lives have ‘stolen their playbook’ in the form of Harvey’s manuscript. They quickly decide to turn the tables, again not by actually talking but by tricking the tricksters, pretending to do what they now know the women want them to do but not actually bothering to do it. Even the youngest viewer who has never even seen relationship comedy before should be able to work out what happens next.
It’s not the first film based off a relationship book, some of which have worked more than not, mainly based on the strength of the characters. “Think Like A Man” does not have that strength. The men themselves are mostly bland, non-descript creations of what the filmmakers think a woman would be interested in. Except for Cedric, the cynical, bitter divorcee with terrible judgment who creates most of the worst predicaments for the others and yet always gets listened to despite being obviously useless.
Unlike the others, Hart can actually make this stuff funny with is ridiculous, over-the-top little guy shtick. Yeah, his character is a crutch for the plot, allowing the writers and filmmakers to create conflict without having to actually think about what they’re doing. They just have to throw Cedric into the mix. But he tends to get the best laughs and he’s the only one who seems to realize that he’s really in a souped-up sit-com episode and charm goes a long way.
Still, no amount of charm floating to the top can hide the bland, uninspired underpinnings. “Think Like A Man” does a better job marketing the book it’s based off of than creating an actual story for anyone to care about. Worse films have been made for worse reasons, but that’s hardly high praise. Maybe what the world really needs is a book on how to trick filmmakers into giving us good movies by making them think that’s what really want.