Arts

Film review: Best asset of comedy remake What Men Want is star Taraji P Henson

Taraji P Henson in What Men Want
Damon Smith

DIRECTED by one man, produced by two more and marshalled on to the big screen by an army of XY chromosomes, Adam Shankman's gender-reversed remake of What Women Want comes to the shocking conclusion that the sexes want the same things.

To be loved, to be respected, to be gymnastic in the bedroom and to make uproarious and touching comedies of modern manners.

What Men Want falls short of achieving the latter but does provide sporadic filthy-minded laughs as a fiercely ambitious woman in a male-dominated environment magically learns the inner secrets of her testosterone-fuelled rivals.

Viewed through the lens of the MeToo and TimesUp movements, the 2000 original starring Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt feels outdated, and the script for Shankman's modern update specifically references the current political climate as it trots out bawdy one-liners.

The remake's greatest asset is hyperkinetic lead actress Taraji P Henson, who performs pratfalls with gusto and split-second timing.

She is funnier and smarter than the film around her, elevating misfiring material with the assistance of scene-stealing co-stars Josh Brener and Erykah Badu, who plays a crackpot fortune teller and pot dealer with a fierce set of painted nails and equally polished delivery.

Henson sinks her teeth into sassy sports agent Alison Davis, one of the few women granted entry to a corporate boys' club run by suited alpha male Nick (Brian Bosworth), who inspires his charges with mantras like: "Our teamwork makes their dream work."

Alison is passed over for promotion and publicly vows to sign basketball's bright young thing, Jamal Barry (Shane Paul McGhie), whose business interests are tightly controlled by his crackpot father (Tracy Morgan).

She licks her wounds at a hen party with gal pals Ciarra (Phoebe Robinson), Mari (Tamala Jones) and Olivia (Wendi McLendon-Covey), who has invited a psychic called Sister (Erykah Badu) to read tarot cards.

During her private session with Sister, Alison drinks a cup of pungent hot tea, which will apparently open her "inner portal". Under the influence of the spiked brew, the sports agent hits her head. When she regains consciousness in A&E, Alison can hear the thoughts of every man around her.

"I thought black people stopped drinking tea after Get Out?" quips gay assistant Brandon (Josh Brener). He becomes Alison's willing accomplice as she exploits her gift to outwit agency colleagues and nurture a fledgling romance with bartender and single father Will (Aldis Hodge).

What Men Want is fitfully entertaining, employing a scattershot approach to hitting targets with potty-mouthed humour. The script inflicts blunt force trauma with the heavy-handed life lessons that will help Alison become a more caring and considerate person.

She repeatedly stumbles and picks herself up on this haphazard quest for self-improvement.

Shankman's picture is left wheezing and puffing in her stiletto-heeled wake.

WHAT MEN WANT (15, 117 mins) Comedy/Drama/Romance. Taraji P. Henson, Tracy Morgan, Josh Brener, Aldis Hodge, Erykah Badu, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Phoebe Robinson, Tamala Jones, Shane Paul McGhie, Brian Bosworth. Director: Adam Shankman

RATING: 5/10

Released: March 15 (UK & Ireland)

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