Truth. Steve Harvey’s so-called self help book, Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man is about as sharp in its insights as a dull butter knife. The only reason for the monumental success was a mention by Oprah, and she could push a book about dried poop to the best seller list. Described as the guide to helping women decode the supposedly complicated inner workings of the average guy’s brain, the book is really a bunch of cliches given clever little nick names and written for those with the relationship acumen of the 40 Year Old Virgin. The film doesn’t fall far from the tree, and is best taken as a simple rom-com with a bevy of incredible African-American talent taking advantage of a rarely given opportunity to shine.
That’s not to say that Think Like a Man is a film specifically targeted at African-Americans, because it isn’t. One of the true joys is seeing people like Kevin Hart, Michael Ealy, and Regina Hall in a comedy with some universal truths. The never ending war between men and women on the field of love is something everyone can relate to, and the games we play are time tested and battle worn.
Before the manipulation game begins, one has to get through an hour of Steve Harvey ego stroking, as the comedian pops up every couple of minutes, grinning like he stole somethin'(like your money if you bought his book) and mugging for the camera. The story centers on a close knit group of guys who all represent clearly stereotypes depicted in the book: there’s the mamma’s boy(Terrence J); the “dreamer”(Michael Ealy); the Playa(Romany Malco); and the man child who won’t commit(Jerry Ferrara). The men find themselves taken off guard by the release of Harvey’s book, which has apparently been dropped from the heavens and written by the all-knowing hand of some love deity. Book stores can’t keep it in stock, you can’t even get it on Kindle, and women worship it like chocolate covered diamonds.
Gabrielle Union, Taraji P. Henson, Regina Hall, and Meagan Good make up the ladies who use Harvey’s words to try and transform their guys, even though they fit into neat little categories as well, like the “90 Day Rule” girl and the single mom. When any of the characters talk about the opposite sex, none of them say anything remotely new. If you saw Two Can Play That Game then it’s much the same dynamic, with both sides working the other until all the scheming inevitably falls apart. What works best is when the guys are all together, especially during the hilarious basketball scenes, because we get to see the camaraderie and chemistry of the cast come together.
Once Harvey steps aside, Kevin Hart takes over as the story’s primary narrator, in what is the film’s funniest, most endearing performance as the guy who most vehemently values his freedom after a brutal divorce. Think back to the way Chris Tucker blew our minds in Friday, and that’s the impact Hart brings to the film. He zips in and out of every scene and when not acting like a complete fool he even shows a few moments of sincere emotional depth.
Many of the connecting stories don’t stretch beyond familiar territory, with the exception being Ealy and Henson’s sexy courtship. She plays a high powered exec who expects her man to match her status and ferocious independence, while Ealy is a poor sous chef looking for his big break. They share some seriously hot moments that threaten to melt the screen.
While not doing anything particularly new, Think Like A Man has enough raw talent to overcome a few flaws with the script and Harvey’s burdensome armchair psychology.