In “What Men Want,” Taraji P. Henson gains the ability to hear men’s unspoken thoughts after she (1) accidentally drinks drug-laced tea; (2) dances to 2 Live Crew’s “Hoochie Mama” during a friend’s bachelorette party; (3) is knocked over by an inflatable penis; and (4) is slammed into a nightclub stage.
In short, nothing about this movie is subtle.
That’s almost a good thing. Henson’s lively spirit carries this so-so gender-flipped remake of the 2000 romantic comedy starring Mel Gibson. Replacing Gibson’s chauvinistic adman, Henson stars as Ali Davis, a self-absorbed Atlanta sports agent. After she is passed over for a promotion, she will stop at nothing to sign an NBA draft pick.
Ali’s main issue, at her testosterone-fueled office and in her personal life, is that she seems unable to form meaningful connections with the opposite sex. That includes the young basketball prospect’s helicopter dad (Tracy Morgan), whose approval will determine her success.
After diagnosing Ali’s man problem, an over-the-top psychic called Sister (Erykah Badu, dialed all the way to 11) gives Ali the psychotropic tea. Later, Sister convinces her panicked customer to use her newfound ability to hear men’s thoughts — or rather, her inability to ignore them — to her advantage. What better way to court her client and his father than to eavesdrop on their thinking?
Director Adam Shankman (“Hairspray”) plays to Henson’s strengths, balancing R-rated humor with physical comedy. But the director loses points for burdening the nearly two-hour movie with a bucket of subplots, few of which receive enough attention to justify their existence.
Luckily for us, we get to see a lot of Brandon (Josh Brener), Ali’s submissive assistant and an aspiring sports agent. He is the only other person she confides in about her abilities, and the actors have great chemistry.
“What Men Want” avoids some of the pitfalls of gender-flipping. But that doesn’t mean it’s good. It would make a perfectly fine airplane movie. Or maybe save it for the bachelorette party.
What Men Want
★★ out of 4 stars
Rating: R for profanity, sexual content and drug use.