Taraji P. Henson stars as a hard-working, ball-breaking sports agent struggling to be heard in a male dominated industry in Adam Shankman’s new comedy What Men Want. Loosely based on the 2000 film What Women Want which starred Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt, the film is the latest instalment in the current trend for gender switch comedies which have so far failed to set the box office alight.
Ali Davis (Henson) finds that she is constantly being frozen out by her male colleagues and objectionable sexist boss Nick (Brian Bosworth). When she is passed up for a well-deserved promotion, Ali begins to wonder what else is to be done to succeed in an industry which will never allow her to grow. After a wild night out for her best friend’s bachelorette party, Ali gains the ability to hear men’s thoughts after drinking a mysterious potion concocted by a mysterious medium named Sister (Erykah Badu).
Armed with this newfound power that only she and nerdy gay assistant Brandon (Josh Brener) are aware of, Ali aims to outsmart her colleagues who are all scrambling to sign the next basketball superstar Jamal Barry (Shane Paul McGhie) by cajoling his interfering dad Joe (played with brilliant comic timing by legendary comedian Tracy Morgan). However, the lengths she goes through to win the contract will soon put a strain on her relationship with new love interest Will (Aldis Hodge) and the rest of her friends.
As gender switch comedies go, What Men Want does what is essentially expected from it without taking any more risks than it needs to. And while there are some genuinely hilarious moments, mostly courtesy of Erykah Badu’s brilliant comic turn, the rest is set to leave audiences more bewildered than amused by essentially failing to bring anything new to the original idea, which was admittedly a lot funnier regardless of the gender politics attached to its rather problematic premise.
Taraji P. Henson brings a great deal of playfulness and comedic flair to an otherwise boring storyline which could have benefited from a tighter screenplay. Elsewhere, Tracy Morgan is at his obnoxious best as the hard to please Joe Dolla, while New Girl‘s Max Greenfield brings a great deal of charm and likability as one of Ali’s annoying dude-bro colleagues.
On the whole, What Men Want is as contrived and as predictably formulaic as a film like this is expected to be, but by the end I found myself gently chuckling away at the most basic gags, which I guess is what its makers would have hoped to achieve. And while the film is far from being able to re-invent the romantic comedy wheel, there are just enough elements here to make it worth anyone’s while.
What Men Want is on general release from Friday 15th of March.