It says something about the state of romantic comedies today that the ideas in a movie like Think Like a Man -- or in books like Steve Harvey's Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, on which it's based -- will come as news to anyone.
Not that rom-coms accurately portray the state of male-female relationships beyond a certain point. But then, neither do fairy tales -- and there are still an awful lot of people hoping for a happily ever after.
This film, which features a talented cast stuck with a laughter-challenged script, uses Harvey's book -- and Harvey himself -- to offer examples of the various ways men behave badly on the dating scene. Then it offers solutions to that kind of bad behavior, supposedly designed to change the men into people with whom these women can feel proud of being involved.
There's the Peter Pan-type, who won't grow up and won't commit. Harvey's solution: Force him to man up by getting rid of his tacky apartment furnishings and making him shop for grown-up furniture.
There's the mama's boy who expects the women he's involved with to share him with the first woman in his life -- his mother. Harvey's solution: Make him choose between you.
And there's the hit-it-and-quit-it type, who stops acting romantic and starts acting like he's on a booty call after the first time a woman has sex with him. Harvey's solution: a 90-day rule before she surrenders "the cookie." (The cute slang almost makes you wish they were saying something more clinical, like "va-jay-jay.")
In the film, directed by the unremarkable Tim Story, the men are all friends, members of an interracial basketball team who get together to complain and/or brag about the women in their lives each time they play ball. They include Michael Ealy, Romany Malco, Kevin Hart and Jerry Ferrara. Some of the women they're involved with are friends with each other, but all of the females have someone in their lives shoving Harvey's book at them. They start to follow Harvey's advice - until the men find the book and return the favor by using Harvey's suggestions against them.
In some ways, this is like a mostly African-American version of He's Just Not That Into You: an omnibus of mix-and-match stories, none too deep or sharply sketched. Harvey pops up - first shown on a TV talk show promoting the book, then simply talking directly to the camera. What he says is either common sense or nonsense - again, it's mix and match.
Left out of the mix? Real jokes. There's barely a laugh-out-loud moment in the film, nor is there much in the way of real romance or passion. You can see every set-up and punchline coming from a mile away, because they're so few and far between.
Advice to the makers of Think Like a Man: Try thinking like a funny man in the future. Women love men with a sense of humor - and so do audiences.
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