What Men Want (2019) managed to be a pleasant surprise. This remake of the 2000 Mel Gibson vehicle, What Women Want, puts Taraji P. Henson in the lead, working in a world dominated by men: sports management. Director Adam Shankman had his work cut out for him in order to make this film work, but with a solid comedic cast, fun set pieces, and strong enough character relationships, the film was ultimately enjoyable.
What Men Want was funnier than I’d expected
Ali Davis (Henson) is a great sports agent, and she is ready to finally be made partner. However, her boss and the “boys club” prevent it from happening again. Between the missing out on her promotion and her constant neglect of most relationships in her life, Ali needs to let off some steam. After drinking mystery tea from a psychic and knocking herself out at a club, she wakes up to learn that she can hear the inner thoughts of all the men around her.
Ali’s closest relationship is with her assistant Brandon (Josh Brener), who helps her discover exactly what is happening to her. The connection with Brandon and the chemistry with Brener and Henson is easily one of the best parts of the film. They click, and their comedic interactions brought laughs each time they tried. Brandon is an aspiring agent and openly gay, which creates a compelling side story of comedy when another co-worker turns out to be closeted, but Ali learns his secret through a series of initially misunderstood sexual jokes.
Brandon and Ali’s relationship is essentially the backbone of the film; however, from the moment she meets Will (Aldis Hodge), it was clear there was a big spark. Hodge is great, and he manages to pretty much win the audience over instantly. From his kind smile to his charming wit, he instantly proves to be more than just a sexy bartender. As a single father of a cute child, he is nothing like the type of guy Ali is used to, and their relationship is built upon a series of misunderstandings. Still, I was rooting for them to get together throughout the movie because of the charm Hodge brings.
The premise of hearing guys thoughts is not wasted. There are plenty of funny moments built from this idea, starting off with the doctor admitting to his bad work habits. Tracy Morgan’s Joe ‘Dolla’ Barry is much less of a caricature than the trailer depicts, even though some of the stupider lines heard in the commercials are still in the film. Nonetheless his character, and his son Jamal Barry (Shane Paul , do open up some of the better chances for Ali to use her ability to her advantage.
The weakest part of the film is how neat it all comes together at the end. Even the music during most of the finale scenes feels like it was ripped from a Lifetime movie. Every detail and theme is smashed over the audience’s head, and all the pieces of shattered hopes, dreams, and relationships are simply put back together. It feels too “after school special”, and not as satisfying as it could have been…but it’s not bad, either.
What Men Want was still far more entertaining than I’d expected from the trailers. Henson is hilarious, and definitely deserving of the lead in this film. Brener keeps proving how valuable a comedic asset he is, and I look forward to him being cast in more comedies. What Men Want earns a Decent Watch rating.