A woman's guide to winning dates
By Ann Hornaday
Friday, Apr. 20, 2012
It's become an all-too-familiar lament among film fans that the romantic comedy has gone the way of the dodo, but those pessimists often overlook some terrific African American rom-coms that have come out in recent years: Anyone remember "Love Jones"? "Love and Basketball"? "Something New"?
"Think Like a Man," a gleaming, sumptuous adaptation of Steve Harvey's 2009 bestseller, "Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man," deserves inclusion in that group, if only because it seeks to rescue contemporary black storytelling from the clutches of men in drag and misogynist moralizing.
An all-star revue of some of the most physically stunning actors working in Hollywood, "Think Like a Man" is a pleasure if only on a purely sensory level. (The earrings constitute a lustrous ensemble cast all their own.) If it begins to strain under the sheer weight of its multiple characters, plot lines and pieces of aphoristic advice, "Think Like a Man" is a movie sure to find an appreciative audience in anyone longing to see at least some recognizable reality folded into their cinematic fantasy.
The nine main characters in "Think Like a Man" might be archetypes-bordering-on-stereotypes, but all manage to resemble authentic human beings, thanks to the terrific actors who play them: Lauren (Taraji P. Henson) is a super-successful corporate executive who doesn't want a man who's taller or earns less money than she does; Mya (Meagan Good), she of the bangin' earring wardrobe, persists in believing that a one-night stand can lead to something real; Candace (Regina Hall) is a single mom. And Kristen (Gabrielle Union) has been living with her college boyfriend for several years without the relationship - or his predilection for "Star Wars" and SpongeBob posters - growing up.
Each of these gorgeous, high-achieving, self-aware women faces a unique dating problem for which Harvey - whose cameo appearances on various TV screens gives "Think Like a Man" a regrettable air of self-promotion - has just the right advice. The men in their lives - played by Michael Ealy, Romany Malco, Terrence J and "Entourage's" Jerry Ferrara, respectively - embody Harvey's ready-made labels: The Dreamer, the Player, the Mama's Boy and the Non-Committer. (Most of the comic relief in "Think Like a Man" arrives by way of Kevin Hart, whose motor-mouth shtick begins to wear thin early in the film, but who anchors one of the movie's funniest set pieces on a basketball court.)
Harvey's advice - with its 90-day rules before having sex and warnings against being a "chirp-chirp" girl - doesn't break any ground that readers of books like "The Rules" won't know by heart. (The "chirp-chirp" line has to do with insisting that your date open the car door for you. Now you know.)
But you don't have to buy into Harvey's portrayal of sexual gamesmanship and manipulation to take in the myriad pleasures of "Think Like a Man," in which director Tim Story makes the most of his attractive and accomplished cast and, with glancing references to books like "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" and rapper AMG, manages to sound a clear, distinctively hip pop-cultural dog whistle. (And an occasionally unwelcome one, especially when it traffics in tired, unfunny gay jokes.)
It's on this level - which co-star Ealy recently described as "that beautiful black aesthetic" - that "Think Like a Man" is best appreciated. Forget hackneyed cliches about Players and Dreamers and the scheming women who seek to domesticate them. Focus on the pleasures of watching a group of gifted actors spar and seduce each other with genuine warmth, and "Think Like a Man" just might go straight to your head.
Contains sexual content, some crude humor and brief drug use.