What Men Want

 

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Taraji P. Henson flounders in Adam Shankman’s high-concept, low-rent remake of Nancy Meyers’ What Women Want.

 

What Men Want

Junk male: Taraji P. Henson   

 

I’ve always wondered what men want. However, what men want is a moot point. According to this distaff remake of a 2000 fantasy starring Mel Gibson, men want money, power and subservient women. And lots of sex. This revelation comes to the Atlanta sports agent Ali Davis (Taraji P. Henson) after she knocks herself out in a bar and wakes up in hospital with the ability to read men’s thoughts. Women in the cinema should be more careful. Only last summer, in I Feel Pretty, Amy Schumer knocked herself out, only to wake up believing that she was a sylphlike stunner. At least that film made a point about self-perception and body dysmorphia. For Ali, who’s just been overlooked for a promotion at the high-flying sports agency Summit Worldwide Management, her male colleagues’ thought processes are driving her crazy. Then she twigs that she can use her new ability to her advantage: to further her career in the cutthroat world of the corporate boys’ club.

 

A significant problem with Adam Shankman's What Men Want, which is as much a retread of Jerry Maguire as it is of Nancy Meyers’ What Women Want, is that Ali is every bit as self-centred, ruthless and calculating as her male cohorts. Other than for the purposes of the plot, the fact that she is a black woman is irrelevant. When, thanks to her newly acquired powers, she lures the sexy bartender Will (Aldis Hodge) into bed, after she has used him to climax, she rolls over and drops into a deep sleep. Just like Amy Schumer in Trainwreck. However, Taraji P. Henson, who received an Oscar nomination for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and critical acclaim for Hidden Figures, is not a natural comic. She mugs appallingly and struts around like a donkey on hot coals. Hers is a strident, loud and grating presence.

 

But she’s in good company as, under Adam Shankman’s ham-fisted direction, many of the supporting characters are just as crass. Perversely, the best performances are provided by the men, with creditable turns from Richard Roundtree as Ali’s world-weary father, Aldis Hodge (Straight Outta Compton) as Will and Shane Paul McGhie as a rising star in the basketball firmament. But the jokey, jarring musical cues, broad reaction shots and stream of caricatures undermine any quality struggling to feel the width. As predictable and formulaic as a day-time sitcom, the film blunders on for an excruciating, interminable 117 minutes, until the inevitably schmaltzy conclusion.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Taraji P. Henson, Tracy Morgan, Aldis Hodge, Richard Roundtree, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Josh Brener, Tamala Jones, Phoebe Robinson, Max Greenfield, Jason Jones, Brian Bosworth, Erykah Badu, Shane Paul McGhie, Auston Jon Moore, Charles Green, Karl-Anthony Towns, Shaquille O’Neal.

 

Dir Adam Shankman, Pro James Lopez and Will Packer, Ex Pro Taraji P. Henson and Adam Shankman, Screenplay Tina Gordon, Alex Gregory and Peter Huyck, Ph Jim Denault, Pro Des Mark Hutman, Ed Emma H. Hickox, Music Brian Tyler, Costumes Sekinah Brown.

 

Will Packer Productions/BET Films/Paramount Players-Paramount Pictures.

117 mins. USA. 2019. Rel: 15 March 2019. Cert. 15.