Monday, May 7, 2012

AB Goes To The Movies - Think Like A Man.

In post-Tyler Perry America, the romantic comedy is a staple that seems headed the way of the BetaMax VCR. While the 90's and 00's boasted such solid romcoms as Love and Basketball, The Best Man, Brown Sugar and Two Can Play That Game, the genre has fallen on hard times of late. Every film's either got some misplaced Come To Jeeezus!!! undertone, or a crusty, grown-assed black man in a dress and pumps. I'll pass.

For these reasons and many others, I was less than enthused when I started seeing the ads for Think Like A Man pop up during NBA broadcasts. Okay, I'll just keep it two hunned: I'm not the biggest fan of Steve Hightower Harvey. I think it's beyond comical that a man with more ex-spouses than Elizabeth Taylor has somehow convinced black women that he's a love doctor and relationship expert by releasing a ghost-written book full of common freakin' sense. Now that sh*t cray is funny. Still, Harvey-hatin' aside, I guess I have to admire the man's hustle. When he realized his days as the (self-proclaimed) King Of Comedy were coming to an end, he did a complete 180 and rebranded himself. His book "Think Like A Man, Act Like A Woman" is a New York Times bestseller, and the basis for said film. I'm blogging about said film, basically giving it free pub.

Advantage: Hightower Harvey!

That said, the movie itself is actually good. Surprisingly good. Shockingly good. So good that you're left scratching your head during the closing credits, wondering "How in the hell did something associated with Steve Hightower Harvey turn out that good?" Honestly, this might (keyword: might) be the best black romantic comedy since Boomerang.

Yes, I said it. This movie's that good.

I haven't read the book (shocker!) but the film inadvertently (or perhaps, blatantly, depending on how you look at it) serves as an infomercial. 10 Los Angelenos with relationship statuses in varying states of disarray try to resolve their differences in a game of cat and mouse that revolves around the wit and wisdom contained in Harvey's aforementioned book.

Kevin Hart plays a recently divorced man trying to re-adjust to life as a single guy. Michael Ealy is a "Hapless Dreamer"[1] whose lack of ambition clashes with Taraji P. Henson's high powered corporate status. Romany Malco is the stereotypical "player" who falls prey to the charms of a newly chaste Meagan Good. Gabrielle Union cannot seem to get her fratboy, action figure-obsessed boyfriend Jerry Ferrara to grow up and commit. Mama's boy Terrence J juggles the demands of his two most favorite women when he falls for single mother Regina Hall. BET comedian Gary Owen is happily married with kids, but for some odd reason has permission time and energy to hang out with a bunch of single dudes playing basketball and barhopping every night. A boatload (and boy do I ever mean a boatload!)[2] of D-List ancillary characters helps move the storyline along at a brisk pace. Harvey (predictably playing himself) provides relationship advice while a guest on an Oprah-like show at plot-intensive intervals, all the while smiling and oddly filmed with a soft-focus lens.[3]

If this sounds like entirely too much going on for one movie, you'd technically be correct. Emsemble casts are usually a recipe for complete disaster, but somehow it works quite well in this Tim Story (Barbershop, Fantastic Four) helmed flick, which was somewhat confoundingly written by two Jewish guys. There isn't a single incapable actor performer, yet there's no real star either. This cast is kinda like the Memphis Grizzlies. Each couple gets equal airtime, and although Ealy is the nominal headliner, Kevin Hart is actually the show stealer here, providing well-timed comedic relief. I'm not 100% sure if this is the star vehicle that propels Hart into the Eddie/Martin/Richard Hollyweird stratosphere, but he clearly shows that in the right context, his brand of humor translates to the big screen. Good for him.

None of the couples dilemmas is actually too deep/complex, and thankfully, for once, the movie's plot culmination does not involve childhood rape(!) Anyone else who has seen a black film in this century will probably breathe a huge sigh of relief after reading that. The movie is well-written, steers clear of any annoying coonery, and even the dialogue is relatively cliche-free. My wife and I laughed a lot, and well, that's sorta what a romantic comedy should be about.

Final Verdict - This movie was actually very good. Surprisingly good. Shockingly good. I'm sure Steve Harvey and his ultra-white veneers will be laughing all the way to the bank. And hey, for once, I'm actually laughing with him. Eff' a matinee, pay full price! 4 Stars (Out Of 5)

Question: Did you see Think Like A Man? What'd you think? Was it actually as good as I'm saying, or am I grading it on the Tyler Perry Scale Of Dramatically Lowered Expectations?!?

[1] Lightskinned, green-eyed handsome guy who can't hold a steady job in the movies = "Hapless Dreamer". Not-so-handsome, not-so-green-eyed guy who can't hold a steady job in real life = "Jobless Loser".

[2] I'm literally talking every black person not named Denzel or Angela that's ever appeared in a movie or UPN TV show. All of em'. Seriously, the cameos and bit parts just kept coming and kept getting more and more absurd.

[3] That "Barbara Walters" camera trick that makes her look younger than the 82 years she actually is. Yeah, it was kinda weird.

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