By Kimberly Gadette (doddleNEWS)
It’s official. Hollywood’s creative wellspring is experiencing such a dry spell that the industry is turning to non-fiction, self-help books for scintillating comedy. Perhaps this latest stratagem might engender its own ironic boomerang, in which some studio exec writes a non-fiction, self-help book about how to say no to pitches for film adaptations of non-fiction, self-help books.
And yes, it’ll probably be a bestseller.
Earlier forays include the adaptation of “He’s Just Not That Into You: The No-Excuses Truth to Understanding Guys” into He’s Just Not That Into You, and “Queen Bees and Wannabes” into Tina Fey’s Mean Girls. (Perhaps it’s due to Fey’s talent that Mean Girls was a bona fide hit.) Hold onto your Kindle because raising its egghead above the next horizon comes the cinematic take on What to Expect When You’re Expecting, and Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.
However, if the anticipation is driving you wild, rescue is on the way in the guise of onetime comedian turned radio host Steve Harvey, whose 2009 non-fiction tome “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man” has been adapted into Think Like a Man, an omnibus of a rom-com. An omni-rom-com, if you will.
Similar to 2009’s He’s Just Not That Into You, the cinematic treatment of Think Like a Man bespeaks to interconnecting story arcs reflecting the urban push/pull between late twentysomethings. Here, we’re presented with a group of six basketball-playing buds who are struggling with their women, or lack thereof. At the same time, a country-wide media blast extolling the efficacy of Harvey’s book catches the attention of the ladies and, as fast as you can say “I do,” they’re snapping up copies and changing their ways. They’re hoping to hunt down the male animal which, when cornered, will fight back. Scratch, claw, bite, chew … it’s as if another kind of Hunger Games has begun.
While the film may dispense sound, albeit timeworn, advice, it’s loaded down with problems of its own – such as the fact that given its roots as a self-help book, we’re dealing with chapters rather than characters. And so we meet “The Player” (Romany Malco), “The Mama’s Boy” (Terrence J), “The Dreamer” (Michael Ealy) and “The Non-Committer” (Jerry Ferrara), with the angry “Divorced Guy” (Kevin Hart) and the doughy “Happily Married Guy” (Gary Owen) bringing up the rear. The women are similarly stuck playing archetypes, i.e., “The 90-Day Rule Girl” (Meagan Good), “The Single Mom” (Regina Hall), “The Woman Who is Her Own Man” (Taraji P. Henson) and “The Ring Girl” (Gabrielle Union). Two-dimensions, nice and neat. Paper dolls instead of people.
To be fair, screenwriters Keith Merryman and David A. Newman were faced with the monumental task of juggling six different scenarios, plus an assortment of side characters including an overbearing mother (Jenifer Lewis), various ex-lovers (Chris Brown, Morris Chestnut), confidante gal pals, and yes, Steve Harvey himself. However, the spark and play that Merryman and Newman accomplished in their previous feature, the well-received and often funny Friends With Benefits, is nearly impossible to recreate in this not-so-merry, marry-go-round.
The ensemble consists of likeable and extremely attractive actors. The guys work together with a natural ease and good humor, allowing us to believe that they’ve been pals for years. Far from newbies, many of the cast members sport substantial resumes (i.e., Henson, Union, Ealy and Malco). However, the performers can only go so far while being boxed into the tired old dance of do-si-do vs. do-si-don’t. And poor Kevin Hart, forced to play the motor-mouthed funnyman, pushes so hard we’re afraid he might hurt himself.
In a particular bit of annoyance, Meagan Good’s Mya has a meltdown when she realizes that her man Zeke (Malco) bought his own copy of Harvey’s book. Available at bookstores and online everywhere, the only surprise is that the men haven’t found it sooner. Her extreme reaction is so severe that not only does it take us out of the light comedy, but we find ourselves reassessing the likeability of her character.
Severe editing cries out, such as in the overlong third act when every single last couple, um, couples. Steve Harvey’s non-fiction notwithstanding, given the fairly uninspired 120 minutes, you might want to bring along a book of your own. Or write one.
Rating on a scale of 5 counseling sessions with Dr. Love: 2
Release date: April 20, 2012
Directed by: Tim Story
Written by: Keith Merryman & David A. Newman
Based on the non-fiction book “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man” by: Steve Harvey
Cast: Michael Ealy, Jerry Ferrara, Meagan Good, Regina Hall, Kevin Hart, Taraji P. Henson, Terrence J, Jenifer Lewis, Romany Malco, Gary Owen, Gabrielle Union, Chris Brown
Running Time: 120 minutes