What Men Want: A cliche that is thankfully forgettable
Even with some modernizations and a fresh-faced cast, What Men Want is absolutely terrible and plays on every formulaic cliché while also being not funny.
The film follows a high-strung sports agent, Ali (Taraji P. Henson), as she is constantly told to “stay in her lane” and is never given the same opportunities as her male counterparts. She seems to struggle to connect with men and after a strange occurrence with a weird psychic (Erykah Badou), Ali can now hear the thoughts of men. With her newfound psychic strength, Ali not only looks to impress a new client as well as her male co-workers, but also a new man (Aldis Hodge) that she is slowly falling for.
Honestly, this movie was an absolute struggle to sit through. It’s kind of ironic that a film like Isn’t It Romantic would come out and basically go over all of the rom-com clichés and tropes that exist because What Men Want feels like it hits all of them. Ali has a gay side-kick in the form of her assistant Brandon (Josh Brener), there’s plenty of musical cues of popular songs that feel very intrusive in scenes, and it even shares a similar cliché moment where Ali thinks someone is attractively looking at her when the person is actually interested in the person next to her.
Even the concept feels incredibly cliché and doesn’t try to do much different than the 2000 gender-swapped original What Women Want. The thoughts that Ali hears basically range from fart jokes, sexual innuendos, and lines that would lower your intelligence upon hearing them. Basically, the film paints most of the men as either bros or just plain dumb. This is except for her love interest, who really doesn’t add anything special and is mostly bland. Perhaps, if I had seen What Men Want first my feelings wouldn’t be as strong, but the film comes off as completely predictable on its own and has a bevy of other problems that make it a rough watch.
What Men Want just takes the easiest way to tackle this concept to grab a few laughs and never gives anyone a chance to really say anything special about the film titular topic. Instead of actually talking about the thought processes between men and women, it gives the generic message of “well, maybe they want the same things” and then goes back to displaying unsophisticated messages about independence that the film turns its back on with a cliché rom-com finale with Ali trying to reconcile her feelings towards her male love interest. Not to mention, I wish there were moments where we also got into the thought process of Ali and got kind of a mental battle. It would’ve played better to Henson’s strengths of great line delivery and it would’ve given actors more moments of displaying emotion or trying to guess emotion from people faces.
However, even for someone as talented as Henson, What Men Want is an incredible low-point for her acting career as her performance feels crazed at times. While her character is definitely high-strung and tension-filled, Henson is cartoonish and dials Ali’s more crazed attitude way too high. Frankly, she’s so wild and ridiculous at times that she would come off more normal if something like this happened:
Everyone else pretty much follows suit with performances that will leave few laughing. Tracy Morgan pretty much plays himself, other sports personalities just show up to be there, the love interest doesn’t add much, her friends don’t add much and are just trope forgettable tropes, and even her assistant really only snags just a few funny moments.
There’s nothing great, or even that good, that What Men Want brings and it’s a truly draining experience overall. Its clichés make it a tiresome watch and the kind of movie you could out-loudly guess what would happen next and you would probably be right. The best part is that it’s instantly forgettable.