As the studio logos ebb and the story begins, the simple, primal wail of James Brown screaming, "It's a Man's World!" sets the tone for an animated primer explaining the machinations of today's male. Suggesting from the dawn of time, men have and will always be the scourge of any women hoping to snare one. Apparently the case still holds true, after all, it's the basis of almost every romantic comedy we've seen recently. But there is something unique about Think Like A Man that offers a fresh, universal perspective on that battlefield we call love.
Loosely based off the best-selling book by comedian radio show host Steve Harvey, "Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man" writers Keith Merryman and David Newman literally rip archetypes from the self-help guide to weave this contemporary story of six friends that run the gamut from playboy to divorcee and the women that are, or end up in their lives. The close-knit pack for guys, play basketball, have drinks and more importantly for this film compare notes on the fairer sex. As the story starts to unfurl, most of the emphasis in on the men highlighting their many faults and shortcomings but soon shifts to the female perspective as each of their characters are introduced.
Only four stories are really explored in the film; Candance (Regina Hall) a single mom who falls for the "Mama's Boy" Michael (Terrence Jenkins), her best friend Lauren (Taraji P. Henson), an up-and-climbing corporate COO who fall head over heels for "The Dreamer" Dominic (Michael Ealy), Sharp and savvy Kristen (Gabrielle Union) is frustrated by her long time "Non-Committer" beau Jeremy (Jerry Ferrara, and then there's "The Player" Zeke (Romany Malco) who doesn't know what love is until he meets Mya (Meagan Good). The two remaining types - the "Happily Married" Bennett (Gary Owen) and "Soon-To-Be Divorced" Cedric (Kevin Hart) only add their comedic timing and one-liners to offset the tightly woven story.
Steve Harvey plays himself in the film as his book makes the rounds on the talk show circuit and into every nail polished hand in L.A. Its here when the story shifts more into the female slant as Harvey doles pearls of wisdom taken directly from his book. The women soon have the upper hand at the expense of their dumbfounded love interests until they too discover the book.
This Think Like a Man plot isn't original. We've seen similar scenarios ensemble cast, role-playing in earlier films such as Down with Love and the Two Can Play That Game. But just as those films illustrate, it's not really about the onset of the situations they're hurled in that makes it entertaining. The key to this formula is the smart comedic beats, overarching story line and onscreen chemistry that makes it genuine, relatable and thus believable.
A partial credit for that onscreen energy definitely belongs to director Tim Story who has a knack for capturing that almost effortless and natural rhythm with ensemble casts in his films. This is truly his element having success with this type of message-laden storytelling with the Barbershop movies, that unfortunately doesn't translate quite so well while he helmed the Marvel's Fantastic Four franchise. In the end credit primarily goes to the amazing actors who carry this film far beyond the well-scripted words with stand up performances overall. Henson and Ealy are always dynamic on screen and Good is sure to make people take notice of the sweet magic she's crafted along her story line. But with an array of talented actors and cameos peppering the screen the standout is definitely Kevin Hart for vies to steal almost every scene. His crass and often off-color rants, pratfalls act out as purely improvised flow-of-consciousness which layers into for this film as simply comedic gold. Almost every line garnered translates into a laugh out loud moment.
Yeah, we've seen it all before but when it comes down to the wire, this unique blend of interesting funny story, great performances and genuinely heartfelt beats makes Think Like A Man a standout amongst today's romantic comedies.
I can see Rushdie's stuff adapting well. Lots of plot to play with.