What Men Want

What Men Want

2019, R, 117 min. Directed by Adam Shankman. Starring Taraji P. Henson, Aldis Hodge, Richard Roundtree, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Phoebe Robinson, Tamala Jones, Tracy Morgan, Josh Brener, Erykah Badu.

REVIEWED By Steve Davis, Fri., Feb. 15, 2019

Taraji P. Henson swirls through the gender-flipped comedy What Men Want like the Tasmanian devil, giving a Looney Tunes slapstick performance bound to make even Tiffany Haddish blush (and grow green with envy as well). While admittedly fun to watch, her outrageousness only underscores the uneven tone in this reboot of the Nancy Meyers’ high-concept 2000 film in which Mel Gibson’s sexist pig discovers he can read the thoughts of women around him after getting conked on the head.

Where Gibson’s character in What Women Want superficially explored his feminine side primarily for laughs (makeup, manicures, pantyhose!) to better understand the modern woman, Ali (Henson) is primarily interested in using the subconscious ruminations of men in close proximity (yes, as the result of yet another hackneyed conk on the head) to shatter the glass ceiling at the sports agency where she works. Her beef with the boys’ club is legitimate, but the scrappy Ali doesn’t really care about using her gift to learn about what men want, despite her character’s predictable eleventh-hour rehabilitation. The movie is really all about what she wants, consequences be damned. And therein lies the lesson.

Yet while a game Henson entertains for most of the movie – even when her over-the-top gestures make no sense – Morgan is little more than an appendage as the smothering father of a young basketball player Ali is trying to sign. Why do Morgan’s lines always sound as if he’s shouting them into a megaphone? The camaraderie between Ali and her three BFFs (McLendon-Covey, Robinson, and Jones) doesn’t come close to the degree of friendship experienced by the quartet in Girls Trip or the wedding party in Bridesmaids, depriving the movie of a sisterhood narrative that might have smoothed out its patchy tone. On a positive note, the movie nicely features a positive burgeoning gay relationship between two male co-workers, and makes some sharp observations about how women can find themselves overcompensating in the workplace to overcome the embedded prejudices confronting them there.

Henson aside, the most memorable performance comes from musician Erykah Badu in the smallish role of a trippy, weed-dealing psychic seemingly from another planet. Coiffed in a natural mane of auburn hair and sporting curled fingernails resembling delicate talons, Badu isn’t onscreen for very long, but in her allotted minutes, she appears to be having the time of her life.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Adam Shankman Films
Rock of Ages
Tom Cruise playing a dissolute rock god is the main attraction of this jukebox musical.

Marjorie Baumgarten, June 15, 2012

Bedtime Stories
Adam Sandler has finally found his audience: 3-year-olds. Maybe he should stop making movies already and just rent himself out for kids’ parties.

Josh Rosenblatt, Dec. 26, 2008

More by Steve Davis
Freud's Last Session
Fictional meeting between Freud and CS Lewis makes no breakthrough

Jan. 19, 2024

Joan Baez I Am a Noise
The public, private, and secret lives of the folk icon

Dec. 29, 2023


What Men Want, Adam Shankman, Taraji P. Henson, Aldis Hodge, Richard Roundtree, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Phoebe Robinson, Tamala Jones, Tracy Morgan, Josh Brener, Erykah Badu

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle