Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu April 19, 2012

'Think Like A Man,' And We'll See What Happens

Originally published on Fri April 20, 2012 4:06 pm

Oy, the things daters have to worry about these days. Not just how to dress, act and turn "no" into "go," but how not to become a chirp-chirp girl.

A what, you ask? Well, as comedian and broadcast personality Steve Harvey explains in Think Like a Man -- a film that illustrates the stereotypes and situations he wrote about in his self-help best-seller Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man -- she's the girl who puts up with a man who uses his key fob to unlock the car — "chirp chirp" — as he's heading for the driver's side and expects her to open the passenger-side door herself.

Meagan Good, playing a sweet, sensitive woman who's protecting herself by adopting Harvey's 90-day rule before succumbing to her boyfriend's advances, won't put up with chirp-chirping, or with any other guff from smooth-talking player Romany Malco.

And so it goes in this romantic rondelay. Commitment-phobe (Jerry Ferrara) dates girl-who-wants-a-ring (Gabrielle Union); mama's boy (Terrence J) falls for strong single mom (Regina Hall); independent career gal (Taraji P. Henson) meets head-in-clouds dreamer (Michael Ealy) who waits tables to make ends meet as he seeks kitchen cred as a chef; and divorced guy (Kevin Hart) misses feminine companionship so much that he's prepared to hit on a friend's mom (Jenifer Lewis). As the types pile up, it will occur to you that it's kind of amazing that humanity manages to procreate at all.

The story pits men who get together to drink, play basketball and fantasize about women, against women who gather at book clubs to complain about men. As the film begins, Harvey's guidebook is giving what used to be called "the weaker sex" an advantage. But then, the men find the book and ... well, you can see where this is going.

Tim Story, who also directed the ensemble comedy Barbershop, here takes time-honored stand-up material and turns it into something pleasantly sitcom-ish — kind of a knowing, urbane variation on the sort of thing that would get more earnest treatment from Tyler Perry.

The director doesn't require — and doesn't really get — distinctive acting from his cast, but every once in a while, the company manages to wink broadly at the film's genre. If you caught actor Michael Ealy in Perry's movie version of For Colored Girls, for instance, you'll get a kick out of the way his character here mocks his character there.

That's pretty meta for a movie based on a self-help book — a form that qualifies as a whole mini-genre in romantic comedy these days, what with Drew Barrymore's He's Just Not That Into You, Tina Fey's Mean Girls, the upcoming What to Expect When You're Expecting. (The phenomenon goes all the way back to the 1960s and Helen Gurley Brown's Sex and the Single Girl, which the New York Times bemusedly conceded was "not the worst picture ever made"). Also Woody Allen's loose, funny take on David Reuben's sex manual, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex * But Were Afraid to Ask.

As with most of those pictures, there's a promotional impulse driving Think Like a Man. It's a little more blatant here, with everyone holding up Steve Harvey's book for the camera at one point or another — including Steve Harvey. All that winking makes it sort of a two-hour infomercial, but a decently amusing one.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block. The new movie "Think Like A Man" is a relationship comedy based on a self-help book by entertainer Steve Harvey. Our critic, Bob Mondello, says the picture supplies ammunition for both sides in the battle of the sexes.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: The things daters have to worry about these days. Not just how to dress, act and turn no into go, but how not to become a chirp-chirp girl. A what, you ask? Well, let's let self-help guru Steve Harvey explain.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THINK LIKE A MAN")

STEVE HARVEY: Chirp-chirp. He just hits the locks and you hop in. He don't even have to open the door.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 9: It's open. It's open.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 2: I don't go out on dates with guys who don't open the door for me.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 9: Seriously?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 2: Yeah.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 9: Oh, man.

MONDELLO: And so it goes in this romantic roundelay. Commitment-phobe dates girl who wants a ring. Mama's boy falls for strong, single mom. Independent career gal meets head-in-the-clouds dreamer who waits tables.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THINK LIKE A MAN")

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 10: She thinks I'm a chef on the rise. She's going to run when I tell her the truth.

MONDELLO: As the types pile up, you may start to think it's amazing humanity manages to procreate at all. The story pits men who get together to drink, play basketball and fantasize about women...

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THINK LIKE A MAN")

HARVEY: The dark knight strikes again.

MONDELLO: ...against women who gather at book clubs to complain about men.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THINK LIKE A MAN")

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 3: What is the problem with men of this generation?

MONDELLO: It takes Steve Harvey's guidebook, "Act Like a Lady, Think Like A Man," to give what used to be called the weaker sex an advantage.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THINK LIKE A MAN")

HARVEY: Ladies, until you understand the mindset of a man, you are never going to win in the game of love.

MONDELLO: But then the men find the book.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THINK LIKE A MAN")

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 3: It's brainwashing. I'm telling you, she's trying to push me toward my dreams and help me accomplish my goals. Why would she do this?

MONDELLO: And you can see where this is going. Tim Story, who also directed the comedy, "Barber Shop," here, takes time honored standup material and turns it pleasantly sitcom-ish. Kind of an urbane variation on the sort of thing that would get more earnest treatment from Tyler Perry. The director doesn't require and doesn't really get distinctive acting from his cast, but every once in a while, they all manage to wink broadly at the film's premise.

If you caught actor Michael Ealy in the movie "For Colored Girls," for instance, you'll get a kick out of the way his character here disses his character there. That's pretty meta for a movie based on a self-help book, a whole mine genre in romantic comedy, let's note.

Drew Barrymore's "He's Just Not that Into You," Tina Fey's "Mean Girls," the upcoming "What to Expect When You're Expecting," all the way back to the 1960s and "Sex and the Single Girl," which the New York Times called not the worst picture ever made. Also, Woody Allen's take on the sex manual, "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask."

As with most of those pictures, there is a promotional impulse driving "Think Like A Man."

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THINK LIKE A MAN")

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 4: Acting like a lady, but thinking like a man.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 5: Oh.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 4: He's actually giving insight into a man's perspective.

MONDELLO: It's blatant here with everyone holding up Steve Harvey's book for the camera at one point or another, including Steve Harvey, making it sort of a two-hour infomercial, but a decently amusing one.

I'm Bob Mondello. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.

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