Friday, February 8, 2019

'What Men Want' (and women as well) is a comedy much smarter than this

Shallow men in the room are the only ones laughing when "Empire" mainstay Henson stumbles in her new film. 
"What Men Want," a kind of long-distance, distaff remake of the similarly titled "What Women Want" (from year 2000), could use a script doctor.

I mean, the four screenwriters credited with borrowing from the original trio responsible for "Women" obviously need some help on how and where this vehicle for Taraji P. Henson might take a few turns toward a wiser destination. After all, the disastrous first half-hour alone absolutely does no favors for Henson's Ali Davis in portraying her, not only as a nasty, foul-mouthed sports agent, but as an uncompromising boss, disloyal friend, and selfish lover to boot.

So, when the tough Ali gets passed over for an expected promotion by her agency's slimy owner (ex-gridder Brian Bosworth) heading a company of major sexist blowhards, it still doesn't seem like such a huge injustice. Fortunately, things pick up -- for a while, anyway -- after a quirky psychic (songstress Eryka Badu in a surprisingly nutty turn) serves Ali some strangely brewed tea at a bachelorette party, and the major plot point kicks in.

That translates into Ali suddenly hearing what men are saying to themselves (if not really thinking much). Naturally, such power gives our startled lead a business edge in pursuing a potential client, the likely Number One NBA draft choice and his wacky LaVar Ball-like dad (Tracy Morgan, with his usual hit-or-miss routine). For a while, it also helps her take some personal inventory before a nothing-special third act returns us -- almost all the way, but not quite -- to the silly script woes mentioned earlier.

Now, anyone might expect Ali/Henson to score by the end, but not even cameos from Commissioner Adam Silver, Mavs owner Mark Cuban and a few former and current NBA stars really can save a movie which nobody could possibly want. Director Adam Shankman ("Hairspray") deserves some blame, too, for rarely dishing out any assists. Instead, he simply forces his overcrowded ensemble of players to dash out of dumb more often than dribble into something more daring.

Rated "R": language and sexual content throughout and some drug material; 1:57; $ $ out of $5

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