Courtesy of SONY PICTURES ENTERTAINMENT
Nothing is being reinvented in the romantic comedy “Think Like a Man,” the adaptation of Steve Harvey’s 2009 bestselling book, “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man.”
Featuring a talented ensemble cast and several delightful cameos, there are many light, amusing and humorous moments in this film. But they’re often bogged down by the film’s narrative structure and some obnoxious characters.
The story revolves around a group of friends who play basketball every week as they discuss their romantic lives. Each of them is supposed to represent a “type” of guy in Harvey’s book: the non-committal guy (Jerry Ferrera, “Entourage”), the player (Romany Malco, “Baby Mama”), the mama’s boy (Terrence Jenkins, “Burlesque”) and the dreamer (Michael Ealy, “Underworld: Awakening”).
That basic concept makes the first half of the movie especially funny and amusing because the boys have no idea what’s going on. They are puzzled by an unanticipated change in behavior of the women and try to process the change in humorous ways. The women begin asking questions about their past relationships and start redecorating their apartments, and the men do not know why.
The comedy of the movie, however, is set up too much like a tired TV sitcom, only there isn’t a laugh track involved. Most of the humor stems from the recently-divorced Cedric (Kevin Hart, “Death at a Funeral”), who serves as the narrator and the comic relief of the film. But as comic relief, Hart tends to be too manic — his unrestrained energy can be very exhausting at times. This is most obvious in later scenes where the film tries to tie the four stories together; his unwarranted presence gets in the way of the central plot.
The story itself has so many characters that the film never spends enough time to develop their backgrounds. Among the four stories, Lauren (Taraji P. Henson, “The Karate Kid”) and Dominic (Ealy) have the most interesting relationship. Henson gives such a funny, brass and charismatic performance as a high-maintenance COO that contrasts nicely with Ealy’s more grounded performance that they are a naturally engaging presence on screen. It’s not surprising then that out of all the relationships, theirs is the most fleshed out.
On the other hand, some characters in the film could have been dropped entirely because they do not serve any purpose but to provide some throwaway laughs. Bennett (Gary Owen, “LiTTLEMAN”), for instance, merely functions as the guy in the group who says blatantly offensive and stereotypical things about his black friends for laughter.
But for all the distasteful humor within the film, it treats its women exquisitely by making them more reasonable and more self-aware. When compared to the relatively childish antics of the men, the women in this movie are portrayed as intelligent and independent.
And as uneven as the film is, there are still some genuine moments of laughter and truth-telling that the story imparts. If there’s anything one can learn from the movie, it’s that not all relationships are ideal nor do people always get what they want. What is important is what people do about what they have. The film, to a certain extent, does question that and, thankfully, it provides some thoughtful answers while still making the audience laugh.