As someone who likes Tim Story’s Barbershop (2002) and who greatly admires Taraji P. Henson and Gabrielle Union, I really wanted to like Think Like a Man. I may even have tried to make myself like it. I know I kept telling myself that it might get better once it found its footing. I did like the on-target jokes at the expense of Tyler Perry, but it never really did much more for me. Nor did it seem to stop. It just kept going and going and going. In fact, Think Like a Man may be the longest 123-minute movie ever made. It felt that way, at least. Thinking it must surely be in the home stretch at one point, I checked the time on my phone—and with a sinking heart learned we’d only reached the halfway mark. Oy gevalt! And that second half was not an improvement on the first.
It’s not hard to see where the problem lies. The idea of adapting Steve Harvey’s “self-help” book Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man (which sounds like the Tyler Perry story) wasn’t any too hot to begin with. But that’s not really what Keith Merryman and David A. Newman (the duo who wrote the vastly superior Friends with Benefits) did with their adaptation. Oh, sure, they bring Harvey’s book into it, and they even interject bits of Harvey talking to the audience. (This wisdom of taking relationship advice from the thrice-married Harvey is a separate issue altogether.) The film, however, is really a cross between the book’s “philosophy” and what might be called Rom-Com for Dummies.
The viewer is subjected to four pretty standard rom-coms shoved, packed, jammed and pummeled into one overstuffed movie that examines the premise of what happens when some women decide to apply Harvey’s book to the men in their lives. Does this mean that it quadruples your viewing pleasure? Well, that all depends on how thickly you like your cliches spread. You get four sets of couples—and a couple of spare parts—with four sets of machinations, four sets of misunderstandings and, yes, four doses of gloomy penultimate-reel shenanigans. The only upside is that three of those four are settled relatively quickly, with the remaining one doing most of the heavy lifting. One day, someone will make a romantic comedy without that next-to-last reel about the break-up, and the cinematic world stop turning.
It doesn’t help matters here that the screenplay is solidly in the post-Apatow realm, which is to say that the males in the cast are all of the arrested-development man-boy variety. The worst of these is Jerry Ferrara (TV’s Entourage) who is ushered into what passes for adulthood by having Gabrielle Union redecorate their shared apartment—which, frankly, only takes it from dorm room basic to Architectural Digest-lite. Generally, the film is content to peddle those 100-year-old (or more) bromides about romance, and how money doesn’t count for anything (all of it staged, of course, in affluent surroundings).
The sad thing about the movie is that the entire cast is good and extremely likable. The problem is that all they can do is bang their collective heads against the walls of an impregnable screenplay. I’m not even sure there’s anything wrong with Tim Story’s direction—which is to say I don’t see how he could have much improved the film without a complete re-write. As it stands … well, if you’re a fan of those involved, you might cut it some slack. Or you might wish they were in a better movie. Rated PG-13 for sexual content, some crude humor, and brief drug use.