Friday, April 20, 2012

War of the Sexes, It's ON! in 'Think Like a Man'

ON the surface, “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man” might appear to be a difficult book to adapt into a screenplay.

On second thought, though, not at all. It would not come as a surprise to learn that comedian-actor Steve Harvey wrote the book with an eye toward a film deal.

SH's best seller is a relationship advice book geared directly toward women. It is also a bit of an etiquette guide as it regards relationships. Further, “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man” could be described as a love letter to women in the form of honest, no-nonsense counsel on attracting and keeping a good man. There are many dos and donts. Character breakdowns of what SH describes as the major types of men, women and behaviors are discussed and dissected.

The types, such as The Player take flesh-and-blood form as Zeke (Romany Malco) in the film, “Think Like a Man,” which opens nationwide today. (See trailer above).

Seemingly, all screenwriters Keith Merryman and David A. Newman, who are pretty faithful to the book, were tasked with was to contrive some behaviors that fit types. It’s not such a stretch to personify Strong, Independent – and Lonely – Women in the image of Lauren, Taraji P. Henson’s balls-busting media company executive or to decide that Mama’s Boy, Michael (Terrence Jenkins), would drive his parent (Jenifer Lewis) to church every Sunday. Any real difficulty might have come in which behaviors to keep and which to toss.

“Think Like a Man” opens with a humorous, narrated cartoon sequence that explains the hunter nature of men. Cleverly, it is narrated by SH who also acts as a Greek chorus, dispensing advice directly from the book. The book was published in 2009. Still, practically everywhere he goes, SH is peppered with relationship questions. He’s become a hero to women, a villain to no-good men – a turncoat who has revealed all of the gender’s secrets.

The action in “Think Like a Man” is set in present-day Los Angeles. Early sequences open on a group of male friends having beers at their regular hangout, doing what many men do when they are amongst themselves – talking shit, sometimes about women.

Mya's (Meagan Good) eyes open after she reads a certain book in "Think Like a Man."  Photos and poster from Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc.

Many of the book’s character types are represented. While they are jawing, the narrator introduces them by way of their type with an accompanying scene. "Dreamer" Dominic (Michael Ealy), for instance, is losing his girlfriend after his latest career switch. He’s had at least three or four beforehand. His buddy, Michael, loses his girlfriend when he invites his mother to their Valentine’s Day dinner. Wisely, girlfriend sees that three’s a crowd and takes her leave.

Meanwhile, SH, playing himself, is on a book tour and women are learning about his book. Mya (Meagan Good) picks up one after her latest one-night stand with a character portrayed by Chris Brown in one of several cameos. Tired of being a Sports Fish and with pretensions toward being a Keeper, Mya begins applying what she learned from the book, particularly the 90-day rule, on Zeke.

For her part, realtor Kristen (Gabrielle Union) is using her kernels of knowledge to prod longtime live-in boyfriend, Jeremy (Jerry Ferrara), into growing up. To get a grownup sofa and move into digs more befitting of their station in life.

“Think Like a Man” is engaging and has some really funny and tender moments such as when Mya serves Zeke an unexpected nightcap. It takes a little of the breath away. Another truly romantic scene unfolds when Dominic prepares Lauren a sumptuous dinner after she discovers that he is not a star-chef-in-the-making.

Dominic (Michael Ealy) doesn't always feel he is good enough for high-powered executive, Lauren (Taraji P. Henson), in "Think Like a Man.

While there are two nonblack male actors among the main characters, there are no nonblack female counterparts. Further, all of the characters are either black (or appear to be) or white (or appear to be) – nothing in between. Taking into consideration that films such as “Think Like a Man” endeavor to draw the widest possible audience, it is surprising that no overtly Latinos or Asians were cast.

Notably, none of the black men in the film are pursuing nonblack women, particularly white women. SH, an executive producer of "Think Like a Man" and a black man who loves black women, may have played a significant role in that decision. Of course, on this score SH and the other producers could be pandering to demographics, figuring (perhaps wisely) that many black women would be turned off by the film – adversely affecting box office – if the brothers were hooking up with white women. This is a movie after all – a great escape – and the sisters deserve a break from the harsh drumbeat of reality, the powers that be may have reasoned.

It should also be noted that Kristen is the only woman in the film with a white boyfriend –  in the form of Jeremy. Is this a commentary on the dearth of eligible black men? Or does it feed into the myth propagated by many black men and some black women that white men aren’t interested in marrying black women? Hmmm …

Candace (Regina Hall) has stiff competition for Michael's (Terrence Jenkins) heart in "Think Like a Man."

As engaging as “Think Like a Man” occasionally is, it is far from perfect. Too often the film is puerile; at times it borders on stupid. Just about any scene with Kevin Hart’s Cedric fits into these categories. Clearly, he is the comic relief, except the film doesn’t need it. Sometimes, the level of stupidity and coarseness is surprising. A prime example is when a buttoned-down, dignified-looking man who is half of a married couple about to buy one of Kristen’s listings uses an expletive.

Despite it shortcomings, including an ending with little basis in reality, “Think Like a Man” is a good date movie. It will be the subject of much discussion and debate over the coming weeks.

“Think Like a Man” is rated PG-13 (for sexual content, some crude humor, and brief drug use). .

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