I’ve been convinced for years that Chris Rock is bound to make a really good movie one of these days. Not necessarily a great film, but an honest, intelligent, funny film that does everything it’s supposed to. He’s just too smart and likable on-screen for me to think that this isn’t possible; he just has yet to put it all together. Unfortunately, I Think I Love My Wife is not that movie. Though it does appear to be a step in the right direction.
The film itself is a remake of French director Eric Rohmer’s 1972 film Chloe in the Afternoon. While French New Wave may seem like odd source material for Rock (who stars and directs) and co-writer Louis C.K.—the same two who were the driving force behind the now infamous Pootie Tang (2001)—the original’s story of a bored married man being enticed by another woman, and the strain that puts on his marriage, is perfect for Rock’s style of comedy. The downside, however, is that much of the film ends up feeling like excerpts from Rock’s stand-up routine, since many of the jokes feel formulaic and are of the “men and women are different!” variety. This also leads to the material feeling aimless on occasion, causing the film to feel like it’s meandering around until it fills up its running time and finally ends.
Despite these glaring flaws, I Think I Love My Wife gets bonus points for being a film made specifically for adults. I think most can relate in one way or another to the feeling of being bored in a relationship, or the idea of risking a relationship against one’s better judgment in order to cure that malaise. Other than one completely pointless, unfunny, overlong and glaringly out of place gag involving Viagra, the material is handled in a mature and, on occasion, extremely frank fashion. If you go into this movie expecting a cute romantic comedy, you will likely be both surprised and disappointed. It helps that Rock has likeability to spare on-screen and an innate ability to squeeze a laugh out of even the weakest material, though a good bit of it’s genuinely funny.
Rock is surprisingly assured as a director. The film itself feels like Woody Allen light, from the movie’s Manhattan setting to its sophisticated look at relationships—only if Allen listened to Biz Markie instead of George Gershwin. Despite this, the film has a penchant for relying too much on voice-over, not to mention a tendency to occasionally lose focus. Other than the aforementioned Viagra joke, Rock’s only other truly glaring misstep is the film’s climax, where Rock and co-star Gina Torres (Serenity) break into a cheesy R&B song. It’s more bizarre than necessarily awful (though it’s the closest thing the movie has to a true Pootie Tang moment), but this hasn’t stopped me from spending the better part of the past few days trying to decide if the scene is horribly wrongheaded or somehow sublimely genius. (It’s nearly impossible to not lean towards the former.) Whether it’s Rock’s dreadful attempt at carrying a tune, or the out-of-left-field oddness of it all, the scene, at the very least, keeps the film’s ending from being clichéd and boring—and it’s sort of endearing (not to mention incredibly ballsy) from a “what the hell were they thinking” standpoint.
Hopefully, for moviegoers and Rock’s career alike, I Think I Love My Wife is just a jumping-off point towards something greater, and not just another reminder of Rock’s potential. Rated R for pervasive language and some sexual content.
— reviewed by Justin Souther