The voices in your head (probably) aren’t real. But the voices in Taraji P. Henson’s head definitely are! In What Men Want, her character, Ali, finds herself hearing the inner thoughts of all the guys around her.
Yes, it’s just as freaky as it sounds.
No, it’s not as funny as the movie thinks it is.
A Glass Act
Shattering glass ceilings ain’t easy. Usually you just smash into them, leaving you with a concussion and the ceiling perfectly intact.
Ali is a high-powered, free-wheeling sports agent with tons of high-profile female clients. Male clients? Not so much. And this is where the film takes us into well chartered territory, but via a different route.
Depending on your point of view, this is either an independent sequel, remake, or reboot of the minimally adequate Mel Gibson movie What Women Want.
But this movie gives us a comedic look at very serious issues: gender equality, taking friends and loved ones for granted, and living with the consequences of the choices we make.
Ali is doing all the right things to make partner at her job, but like a group of eight year olds in a treehouse, there is a metaphorical sign that says NO GIRLZ ALLOWED! So during a night out with the girls, they end up with a psychic (played hilariously by Erykah Badu) who tells Ali she can help her connect with men. All she has to do is drink some Jasmine tea, which the trailer leads us to believe is laced with weed, peyote, and crack.
One cocktail and one concussion later, Ali can hear the thoughts of all the guys around her.
This is an overused plot device that we’ve seen in one form or another in plenty of movies. But the producers make good use of it. She uses the power to further her own career by landing the top NBA prospect.
There isn’t a lot of conflict with the audience here, as we’re all rooting for her to get what she’s worked for and deserves.
The Subplot Thickens
Ali isn’t all victim. Ali, like many sports agents, is a user of people. Early in the film she betrays her values and asks a superstar female athlete to give her spot on a cover to an unproven male talent. She also keeps her friends in the dark about her new talent, and then drops an atomic sized truth bomb at a wedding.
Over the top? Yes!
Memorable? Not after the next rom-com hits theaters.
We’re Left Wanting
So, what do men want? A cold beer and hot nachos. Maybe that’s just me.
In the end, the movie tries to show that we all want the same things (love, acceptance, blah blah) and are burdened with the same insecurities.
But for all the talk of equality and probing of the universally shallow minds of men, the movie doesn’t deliver much of anything. The plot and subplots are solved with cookie-cutter predictability.
We like Ali, and women will definitely identify with her struggles. But we don’t fall in love with Ali. Using a love interest’s child as a prop isn’t something the tea made her do. She’s presented to us as a well-rounded person who’s struggled, but then uses society’s slights as a justification for her own bad behavior. I believe she knew better, which makes many of her choices in the film seem disingenuous, used only to further the film’s plot or implied but elusive message.
Sure, I’ve made bad choices. They usually involve tequila at 3am (or 3pm). And those choices usually lead to great subplots in life!
If I were you, I’d wait for this to pop up On Demand. It’s worth $8(US) for several people to watch, but not $11(US) per ticket.
The Critic’s Cocktail Recommendation
Jasmine Tea, of course. I suggest adding a healthy splash of gin.
Or you could throw in some weed, peyote, and some crack. But that’s up to you!