What Men Want delivers on its a raunchy comedy and has a surprising message about the challenges women in positions of power in male-dominated spaces face on a daily basis. What Men Want has our central character, Ali Davis (Taraji P. Henson), in a peculiar situation – what happens when you have the power to read men’s minds? As the movie unfolds, we see there are a lot of unintentional consequences (and oh so many laughs) with this specific power.
Henson shines as the overachieving sports agent who is struggling to climb the ladder in a male-dominated workspace. Henson is a natural star as she is ultimately tasked with carrying the entire film, despite some decent supporting players. Henson’s performance tends to veer off into the scene-chewing territory, but she is still able to ground her character as a realistic woman struggling to do 10x more to be recognized for equal work. Ali is a representation of women who overcompensate or mismanage themselves in spaces dominated by men, but these new powers offer her a chance to course correct, even if that means some necessary bumps in the road.
As for the supporting cast, Josh Brener does the seemingly impossible by keeping up with Henson’s explosive charisma. Kellan Lutz a.k.a Captain F*cktastic nearly steals the show with one particular scene. Aldis Hodge is delightful as the single father who catches Ali’s eye, proving that he is leading man material with his comedic timing and serious acting chops. Tracey Morgan is his usual self, and director Adam Shankman knows that he is best in small doses. Ali’s girl gang (consisting of Tamala Jones, Phoebe Robinson and Wendi McClendon-Covey) are criminally underused, but the church scene makes up for it as Ali’s powers finally begin to affect her closest friendships. Lastly, Richard Roundtree (Shaft) as Ali’s father, Skip Davis puts forth a sweet performance as Ali’s most supportive mentor and cheerleader. There are very talented actors on-screen with Henson, but What Men Want is a one-woman show.
Although the comedy carries the movie, at the heart of it is the surprising message about the burdens placed on women in male-dominated areas; where they are essentially in a lose-lose situation. No matter how much Ali tries to conform and act like the men around her, she always is too much of a woman to exist in the “boys club”. Women like Ali do so much to overcompensate that they end up risking further alienation, not just at work, but in their personal lives too.
Tina Gordon’s script hits on all of these themes as Ali attempts to use her newfound powers for her own personal gain. She learns a lot about how men function, manages to overcome some key obstacles at work, and learns some hard truths about her own behaviour. A gift that allows her to step into the minds of men is also the same gift that allows her to truly discover who she is.
What Men Want is a by the numbers raunchy romantic-comedy, but it’s carried by some outstanding jokes and a keen cast of talented actors and comedians. Although, it is a very loose remake of What Women Want it does a good job standing on its own and not relying too much on what was done in the past.
What Men Wants hits theaters on February 8. Be sure to check it out!