Think Like A Man (2012) falls in queue with other films in the ensemble romantic comedy genre — He’s Just Not That Into You (2009), Valentine’s Day (2010), New Year’s Eve (2011). Their formula is simple: pack in a lot of celebs (acting experience or potential not necessary), market the hell out of the movie on radio shows and news outlets like CNN, and attempt to create the illusion that if everyone is in it and everyone is talking about it, the movie must be worth your time. But in the end, after the credits roll, you’ll be left thinking about all the things you could have done with that 10 bucks. I still am.
In a bevy of freeze frames and heavily narrated backstory, we’re introduced to the main characters who each has his own categorization: The Player (Romany Malco), The Mama’s Boy (Terrence J), The Dreamer (Michael Ealy), The Non-Committer (Jerry Ferrara); and their respective matches, 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). There’s also The Happily Married Guy (Gary Owen) and The Even Happier Divorced Guy (Kevin Hart).
These characters unwittingly play into their corresponding roles in Steve Harvey’s Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man like a textbook formula. The women are so desperate to find and keep a man that they’re willing to resort to anything — including reading a self-help book from a man who’s been married three times and holding onto his words as if they were the gospel.
Their new-found advice seems to work until the guys get hold of their action plan and start to counterattack their moves before they are played. The plot unravels like a formulaic relationships compass that directs the film into a series of scripted mishaps based rigidly on the book that are as bland as they are yawn-worthy.
It becomes important whether The Player can hold out on sex for 90 days or whether the Non-Committer can throw out his old furniture and accept a modern interior ambiance — but there’s not a clear reason why any of these people are together besides an initial physical attraction. They don’t ever have any meaningful conversations. And they don’t seem to be good friends, much less companions. The respect and love for other human beings that form the basis for why relationships work are swept under the rug in favor of rules and strategies to conquer love as war.
The underlying message of the movie is that relationships are a battle. But who wants to go to sleep next to their husband or wife thinking that the bedroom is a war zone? Sure there can be standards that guide interactions in courtship, but every last thought cannot boil down to a textbook formula. Nobody wants to see Kobe Bryant simply run a play. What makes relationships interesting and exciting is not the static structure of interactions, but the dynamic sense of originality and spontaneity between people.
And just because two people pass a relationship litmus test does not mean that they are compatible or even that they would want to be together. However, the movie seems to suggest that all that’s necessary for a relationship to work is to play by the rules and lacks any depth of understanding beyond the playbook.
Interestingly, the classic black-cast romances – Love and Basketball (2000, Gina Prince-Bythewood), Love Jones (1997, Theodore Witcher), The Best Man (1999, Malcolm D. Lee) – have come from black penmanship. It is a wonder why Sony Screen Gems recruited Keith Merryman and David A. Newman to pen the script over a host of talented and capable black writers.
Just as in previous rom-com ensembles, heavy marketing and star placement cannot make up for a lackluster story. This self-help book on video is at worst an insufferable ad promo for Harvey’s book and the occasional plug for Tyler Perry’s movies, and at best a bunch of talking heads ping ponging back and forth about relationships. (Note to filmmakers: please find another place for black men to meet other than the bar, the barbershop, and the basketball court.)
The star cast of extras (Ron Artest and Lisa Leslie, Melyssa Ford, Toccara Jones, Kelly Rowland, Chris Brown, Wendy Williams, Lala Vazquez, Keri Hilson. Sherri Shepherd Tika Sumpter, Bruce Bruce) runs like an open audition for black entertainers in L.A. that’s more set for a music video shoot than a feature film.
Have you thought about a few more things you could do with that 10 dollars?
The only positive aspect of this movie is that it brings together a cast of black people on screen. But then again, there are women chucking wine bottles at each other on Basketball Wives…
Watch the trailer.
Director: Tim Story
Writers: Keith Merryman, David Newman
Cast: Michael Ealy, Jerry Ferrara, Meagan Good, Taraji P. Henson, Kevin Hart, Regina Hall, Terrence Jenkins, Romany Malco, Gabrielle Union