WHAT MEN WANT is a black woman’s fantasy romantic comedy, a loose remake of the 2000 film WHAT WOMEN WANT. It is fantasy as the plot follows a woman who, after drinking a potent concoction given by a shaman, gains the ability to hear men’s inner thoughts.
There is nothing new or innovative in this rom-com with a little spin targeting a black female audience. Last year’s Netflix original NAPPILY HAPPY AFTER saw a Black lady get her man. The twist here is hair that made up her life – hair standing as a metaphor for her ego. WHAT MEN WANT’s twist is less subtle, after an incident, the female protagonist can hear men’s thoughts.
So what do men think that is funny? Apparently not much as the film attests. Lots of dirty thoughts, gay thoughts and ridiculous thoughts, most of them more outrageous than funny.
The woman in question is Ali Davis (Taraji P. Henson), a successful sports agent working in a man dominated world of sports. Her personal agent, who is gay, Brandon (Josh Brener) dreams of becoming a sports agent but Ali wants him all to herself. When she is passed over to become partner in the firm she questions what she needs to succeed in a man’s wold. This is when she gains, half hour trough the movie, the ability other men’s thoughts. This allows her not only to gain the upper hand at work but to engage in sex with several hunks including one who becomes her main romantic interest.
Of all the comedic set-ups, one stands out. Oddly, the stand out if from Henson’s outrageousness as well as the scene’s. This is the sex scene between Ali and Will (Aldis Hodge). Ali plays the dominant sex partner, totally in control and freaking Will out so much so he can hardly breathe (yes, she chokes him) or speak. Finally after they complete the act, she rolls over to her side to sleep ignoring him and leaving him looking totally flabbergasted. I would not consider revealing this scene a spoiler as it has to be seen as description does not do the segment justice.
Other parts of the story involving Will’s son, Will and Ali’s misunderstanding and her work among men in the office fall into cliched territory. The part where Ali makes up with her friends propel the plot but is rather uninventive.
It is interesting to note that Ali possesses this ‘power’ for only half of the movie. She gains the power only after the 30 minute mark and loses it 30 minutes before the film ends. Obviously the filmmakers do not think too highly of this niche in the rom-com story.
The film runs close to 2 hours, and that is very long for the typical romantic comedy. And one feels the length of the running time. The material is stretched out far too long for too many unfunny parts just to get the narrative flowing and unnecessarily. Credit to Taraji P. Henson for trying really hard to make the film work.