Based on the 2000 Mel Gibson film “What Women Want” this movie gives us a gender and race flipped version of the same story. In the 2000 version we see that Gibson was raised by a single mom who was a showgirl and as a child, he spent all his time around women, yet he grew into a male chauvinist pig because the male role models in his life were men who objectified women, go figure. He uses his power to manipulate & seduce women, get a big promotion by stealing ideas from the woman hired to do a large ad campaign and all in all just be a huge freaking scum bag. But fret not because by the end he learns a valuable lesson in how to actually treat women and what they really want
The 2019 version, Taraji P. Henson stars as Ali Davis, a woman who is raised by her single dad (Richard Roundtree), who always wanted a boy. Ali has problems with dealing with men because she’s a woman fighting to fit into a predominantly male-dominated job, yet no matter how hard she tries she’s always passed over for promotions. Ali gains the power to read men's minds after an encounter with the psychic, Sister (Erykah Badu) and uses this ability to soothe the egos and needs of men in her field while being able to deal with co-workers on a equal level since they can no longer hide the ”guys club” secrets from her.
For the most part, both movies clearly let you know that guys suck. I mean we’re freaking horrible human beings. We get a power it’s first use is to get a leg up on others. A woman gets it and she uses it to level the playing field for herself at work. Before you start cheering for her, Ali starts using her power to do more than just level the playing field. She begins to play with her love interests’ emotions to impress a potential business client and there’s also a big “let's tell the truth” scene that really affects her personal friendships and life.
Taraji P Henson does a good enough job as Ali, she just added a bit more comedic tilt to the Cookie Lyon character she plays on the TV show, Empire. Aldis Hodge plays Will, the love interest in the film and who may very well be the one “good” guy on the planet. Shane Paul McGhie and Tracy Morgan star as Jamal Barry and Joe ‘Dolla’ Barry, the big client, and his father, that Ali is trying to get to sign with her company. While McGhie’s role is ok for what it is, Tracy Morgan plays his usual ’30 Rock’ character with a bit of LaVar Ball thrown in. While he does have his funny moments, it’s the same character Morgan plays in EVERYTHING you see him in. Josh Brener plays Brandon, Ali’s assistant who, other than her father, is the only male in the movie, Ali is able to have a good relationship with. Maybe it’s the fact that Brandon does more than keep her life together but he’s also kind of her gay best friend who she doesn’t have to compete with for acceptance. Almost every scene with Brener is a laugh out loud moment. The only other person that you get those same laugh out loud moments from is Sister (Erykah Badu), a fortune teller hired for a bridal party. I had no idea Erykah Badu was this funny but her split personality / absent-minded psychic had me (and everyone else in the theater I was in) hollering in my seat.
Now while everyone has their onscreen time, a few more than others, What Men Want is just OK. There’s a lot of actors that I like in it, but there’s so much going on you only get bits and pieces of them. It just seems they put so many comedic actors in the movie, that when they get their screen time they must do something funny and then you don’t see them for 20 minutes or more. Rinse, repeat. Going back to comparisons Gibsons character was not a great person, to begin with, he gets a special ability, becomes an even worse person, then learns a lesson in the end and changes his entire life. Henson is an aggressive female (not a morally corrupt person)whose issues with men has more to do with relationships than just how she treats or views men. She gets the power abuses it a bit and must fix the issues she caused. Even though I wasn’t overly impressed with how the story played out, the movie is still funny and as I mentioned has quite a few laugh out loud moments, something that What Women Want did not have. What Men Want should make a decent, date night movie. My significant other really liked it, but I think it's because she has a girl crush on Taraji P. Henson.