Comedy Fantasy

Review: ‘What Men Want’ Offers a Surprisingly On Point Take on Gender Politics

February 8, 2019Britany Murphy

Attempting to figure out what the opposite gender is thinking has been a point of contention between many for years. Enter What Men Want, a film that strives to give the 2000 hit movie What Women Want a modern update.

Alison "Ali" Davis (Taraji P. Henson) is tired of being trapped in the boys club that her workplace has become. One of the best sports agents at Summit Worldwide Management, Ali is finding it difficult to move up the ranks, and when she finally believes it's her turn to become a partner, her hopes are dashed in a few short seconds. After confronting her boss, Nick (Brian Bosworth), Ali is taken aback when he tells her, "You don't connect well with men." As a result, Ali takes it upon herself to try to better relate to her male colleagues. Still feeling as though she is at an unfair disadvantage, however, she vows to sign up-and-coming basketball star Jamal Barry (Shane Paul McGhie).

Of course, in true misogynistic fashion, most of her colleagues don't pay Ali any mind. But although Ali isn't bluffing, her plans to become a partner at the agency by wooing Jamal and his father, Joe "Dolla" Barry (Tracy Morgan), prove easier said than done. After attending her best friend Mari's (Tamala Jones) bachelorette party, however, Ali meets a psychic by the name of Sister (Erykah Badu) and, in a freak accident, gains the power to hear the inner thoughts of men. At first, Ali believes this is a curse, but she quickly learns to use this ability to her advantage.

Proving once again her knack for being a leading lady, Henson is believable as Ali and her chemistry with Ali's love interest, Will, played by Aldis Hodge, easily shows why he should be a leading man. But perhaps Henson's best chemistry is with Ali's colleagues. Josh Brener does an excellent job as Ali's assistant, Brandon, and you really believe the dynamic that is shared between them. Meanwhile, Max Greenfield and Jason Jones are also great as two of Ali's workmates, Kevin and Ethan, who sometimes get on her nerves. Truly, the entire cast brings something special to the movie that helps make the film fun and easy to watch.

What Men Want elicits some genuine laughs, but this does not stop it from running into the same romantic-comedy tropes that are seen over and over again in these types of movies. While not all were bad, a fair few of the tropes seemed to be added in lazily as filler. Where the film truly shines, however, is in its seriousness. Not only is it a comedy about women trying to know what men are thinking, it also provides a look into the world of women in the workplace, especially those who may work in a field that is predominantly run by the opposite sex. It would have been nice to get a little more of this aspect, but what the movie does show is nonetheless great.

Directed by Adam Shankman, What Men Want is a refreshing take on a nearly 20-year-old film that manages to set itself apart from the original, thanks to its timeliness and humor. It provides some genuine laughs, and if you can get past some of the run-of-the-mill rom-com tropes, it also carries a worthwhile message.

What Men Want releases February 8th, 2018 from Paramount Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of R for language and sexual content throughout, and some drug material. Its runtime is 1 hr. 57 min.

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