Wednesday, 28 August 2019

What Men Want ★☆☆☆☆

Remember Nancy Meyers’ 2000 rom-com What Women Want, starring Mel Gibson? No? Don’t worry, nobody does. It was utter shite. Well, 19 years on, somebody has decided that the premise should be updated and we should be gifted with a remake/reboot/sequel – although this time, it has been gender-swapped (how original). What Men Want is one of those things that nobody asked for, nobody wanted, a few people watched – and largely disliked – and will never watch it again. It will sink to the depths of mediocre modern rom-com (and probably land somewhere near What Women Want, which sank back in ’00).

Taraji P. Henson, a wonderful actress totally wasted here despite her best efforts, plays Ali Davis, passed up for a well-deserved promotion and wondering what she needs to do to succeed in a man's world. Hoping to find answers from a psychic, Ali drinks a weird concoction that suddenly allows her to hear what men are thinking. Using her newfound ability, Ali starts to turn the tables on her obnoxious male colleagues while racing to sign the next basketball superstar. This gender reversal of the source material should’ve allowed for a very timely and powerful look at gender politics in the workplace and maybe even delve into the #MeToo movement and make some insightful comments. Comedy can certainly make these points – recent Mindy Kaling film Late Night did it very well.

Despite an interesting premise that genuinely offers potential, What Men Want is the second time the premise has been totally wasted by drivel. First and foremost, Henson – an absolutely incredible performer who delivered one of 2016’s finest performances in Hidden Figures – is just uncomfortable viewing here. Granted, part of the issue is the way her character is written. She’s ‘one of the boys’, a loud party animal who drinks the other men of her office under the table. But Henson over-acts with such a shouty performance that it is totally exhausting to endure. Everything about the film feels uncomfortably dated – the jokes, the structure, the plot; everything here reeks of a retrograde workplace comedy.

Continuing to prove that gender-flipping a remake does not make it fresh, What Men Want is a painfully unfunny and tedious watch. Tonally, the film is a mess. At times, it falls into an astute sexism commentary and feels like it’s going to dig deep into an important subject. Then, it totally dismisses that approach for raunchy, crude laughs (that don’t land). OK, so it’s a sex comedy. Oh, wait, no, the genre is changing again! Now it’s a workplace drama. What is it? It’s all over the place, making for a jarring experience. And with all this going on, it’s just too bloody long at 2 hours. Thank goodness, then, that director Adam Shankman didn’t release his original cut which he claims clocked in at over 3 hours…

What Men Want is bursting with untapped potential. The film could’ve had a powerful message, but instead, has absolutely nothing to say. The jokes don’t land, the performances are poor, the tone is a mess and the whole thing is too long. So, all in all, not very much to recommend. Avoid.

Sam Love

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