Offering a female twist on Mel Gibson’s 2000 mind reading comedy What Women Want, Adam Shankman’s latest film What Men Want focuses on a woman who can hear men’s thoughts. Ali Davis (Taraji P. Henson) is a sports agent looking to make partner in a predominantly male firm. Always needing to be in control, Ali’s career driven demeanor leaves little time for anything outside of the odd booty call. Despite excelling at her job, Ali cannot seem to break through the corporate glass ceiling established in this toxic “boys’ club” environment.
After being passed over for a promotion yet again, Ali decides to release her frustration at a bachelorette party with her three closest friends Olivia (Wendi McLendon-Covey), Ciarra (Phoebe Robinson) and bride-to-be Mari (Tamala Jones). Part of the festivities include an encounter with a kooky psychic, and part-time drug dealer, named Sister (Erykah Badu) that forever change Ali’s life. After drinking Sister’s mysterious tea and bumping her head on the dance floor, Ali wakes up with the ability to hear the inner thoughts of every male from her loyal assistant Brandon (Josh Brener) to sexist boss Nick (Brian Bosworth).
Realizing the potential advantages of having such a gift, Ali sets out to land top rated NBA draft pick Jamal Barry (Shane Paule McGhie). Of course, doing so means outwitting her colleagues and convincing Jamal’s overbearing father Joe (Tracy Morgan).
What Men Want is a comedy that is bursting with untapped potential. The film assembles a talented ensemble, lead by Taraji P. Henson in a fine comedic turn, but offers very little for them to work with. What starts off as a biting look at the inequality women experience in the work place turns into a rather formulaic comedy with a rather messy message.
Unlike the film Little, another comedy about a successful woman navigating the corporate world, whose director Tina Gordon Chism serves as one of the three screenplay writers here, What Men Want is never sure what lane it wants to play in. At times it is an astute commentary on sexism, a raunchy screwball comedy, a traditional romantic comedy and a tale of female empowerment. However, it never dives deeply into any one thing.
The surprising thing it that, if judging by the bonus features on the Blu-ray, it clearly had a lot to say initially. As Shankman states in his intro to the deleted scenes, his original cut of the film was three hours long. While very few comedies can sustain such a runtime, a little more time could have allowed for the characters and story to be better fleshed out.
Speaking of the Blu-ray, which arrives today courtesy of Paramount Home Media Distribution, the disc is stacked with extra content. “The Dream Team” feature explores Shankman’s directional style and highlights each cast member’s strengths. There is also the amusing “Sister Spills the Tea infomercial” that further showcases Erykah Badu’s, who is a scene-stealer in the film, wonderful comedic timing.
What Men Want may strive to break the glass ceiling, but its comedy seems more comfortable with conforming to the status quo.
Bonus Features: Commentary with director Adam Shankman; Deleted & Extended Scenes with introduction by director Adam Shankman; Gag Reel with introduction by director Adam Shankman; The Dream Team; Flipping the Narrative; What DO Men Want?; Poker Night; Ali + Athletes; Sister Spills the Tea infomercial