Movie Review: What Men Want

Image Source: Roger Ebert

Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Production Companies: Will Packer Productions, BET Films and Paramount Players
Director: Adam Shankman
Producers: James Lopez and Will Packer
Scriptwriters: Tina Gordon, Alex Gregory and Peter Huyck
Main Cast: Taraji P. Henson, Aldis Hodge, Richard Roundtree, Wendi McLendon-Covey and Tracy Morgan
Released: March 15 2019
Running Time: 117 Minutes
Certificate: 15

What Men Want is a modern, if slightly simplified, version of the 2000 hit film What Women Want, albeit from the perspective of a female, who is desperate to comprehend how she can comprehend the feelings and actions as it pertains to her situation.

Ali Davis (played by Taraji P. Henson) is a headstrong and highly-confident, talented woman who works as a sports agent, backed up by her assistant Brandon (Josh Brener) who works tirelessly to help her yet is rarely given sufficient credit. Though she has succeeded in landing some major contracts, she is continuously overlooked by her male colleagues when it comes to progressing as a partner for her parent organisation (who want her to become an agent for a player in either the NFL, NBA or MLB, yet they obstruct her being in a strong position to make such a deal happen). In the meantime, she is also not making much headway in her love life, despite a one night stand with local bartender Will (Aldis Hodge), though she storms off from his home after learning he is a father, and with the wrong assumption that he is married.

As she ponders her predicament, Ali attends a bachelorette party, where her friends have invited along a psychic (played by Erykah Badu). She uses some, erm, substances to provide Ali with a mysterious level of power, one that only comes into effect after she bangs her head during the subsequent night on the town with her buddies. Waking up in hospital, she slowly learns that she suddenly has the power to hear every single thought coming from the mind of a man, unbeknownst to the males themselves (except for Brandon, with whom she confides her secret). At first, she is horrified and terrified, but after speaking with the Sister again, she realises that she could use this to her advantage.

This includes making manoeuvres to circumvent the political games at her firm to make strides towards signing up a major rising star within basketball, that being Jamal Barry (Shane Paul McGhie), backed up by his father Joe Barry (Tracy Morgan). In the meantime, as part of her scheme, she is unexpectedly reunited with Will, who after revealing that his wife had passed away a while back, is interested in developing a romance with Ali. Recognising that being seen as a “family woman” could help her cause on a business level, and that Will seems to have real positive qualities, Ali allows this relationship to progress, all while using her ability to hear male thoughts to her advantage. That is, until her various situations come to a head, and the upshot leaves Ali in a weaker state than she had been pre-psychic. It’s then up to her to try and “fix” her problems, and we also learn what becomes of her special “power”, for lack of a better word.

This comedy film is essentially divided into three stages: before Ali receives her unexpected ability to read thoughts, the aftermath of her various situations, and the much longer section between those points that sees her life almost entirely focused on how she can succeed based on what she is now able to do. Without question, the highlight of the movie is the hour or so where Ali can literally read male minds, because the thoughts that pop up are almost all with a comedic tone, and many of them are amusing. Some are laugh-out-loud funny, as they convey feelings that people would never honestly express to somebody’s face verbally. On that note, the content is pretty raunchy at times for a movie rated 15. This spells a bit of an issue with the film: too often, it relies on swearing and sexuality to provide laughs as opposed to delivering actual witty dialogue aside from these familiar, somewhat safe tools.

Taraji P. Henson is very good in her role, though her character is hard to like and sympathise with, especially in the early going; however, this provides the basis for what we see from her in the final 20-25 minutes, so I can overlook this aspect of the film. It’s easier to feel sorry for Brandon, since his character is a bit geekish and almost treated as an outcast at times, despite him always having good intentions. Brandon (who is gay) even ends up catching the eye of one of Ali’s co-workers, Danny (played by Pete Davidson, whose appearances are brief yet hilarious, including when he argues with someone on the phone and threatens to “f–k your mother”,  and he then casually reveals that he was talking to his brother). The most positive character is Will, as he maintains his dignity and genuine sweetness amidst the chaos going on involving Ali. In that respect, Aldis Hodge shines the most of any cast members, and the good thing is, it isn’t hard to demonstrate the qualities that he puts forth in this movie. And whilst Shaquille O’Neal has appeared in a fair few films, the basketball tie-in makes this an ideal opportunity to feature a cameo from Shaq.

Summing this up, What Men Want is far from a must-see, and those who saw What Women Want will likely deem this to be inferior. But it is entertaining enough, and once it enters its groove (with Ali possessing the power to hear male thoughts), it becomes a bit of a treat to watch. Just note that if you’re not a fan of comedy films that strongly push sexual themes, then you may not enjoy this. Otherwise, it’s a decent way to pass two hours.

Overall Rating: 7.5/10 – Good