Think Like a Man isn't as grueling as most ensemble comedies about the battle between the sexes -- it's no He's Just Not That Into You, in other words -- and it's good-natured, occasionally even funny, in the way it reduces men and women into simple stereotypes. Men, as you may have heard, are either cads, mama's boys, or slackers, while women are blameless, tormented creatures who are doomed to put up with (and try to improve) men. If that sounds familiar, you must have watched a sitcom at some point in the last 30 years.
Inspired by comedian Steve Harvey's relationship-advice book Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man and turned into an overlong screenplay by Friends with Benefits duo Keith Merryman and David A. Newman, the film is based on the principle that men will never do what women want them to do -- which is, by definition, what they should do -- unless women trick them into doing it. The women in the movie, who all live in Los Angeles and have jobs that do not permit them to have money problems, treat Harvey's book like a bible. No matter what kind of gal you are or what kind of fella you're dealing with, the current host of Family Feud has a list of tips for you!
Dominic (Michael Ealy) is a dreamer who flits from job to job with no long-term goals; his new lady friend, Lauren (Taraji P. Henson), is a successful business executive with high standards who must motivate him. Michael (Terrence Jenkins) is too attached to his mother (Jenifer Lewis) to make a girlfriend a priority; it befalls his latest, Candace (Regina Hall), a single mom herself, to show him how. Jeremy (Jerry Ferrara) has been with Kristen (Gabrielle Union) for several years and shows no sign of popping the question; Kristen, obviously, must take matters into her own hands. Zeke (Romany Malco), a smooth ladies' man and total player, meets Mya (Meagan Good), who has decided she's not going to have sex with him until they've known each other for 90 days.
These four guys have two other friends as well, a newly divorced one (Kevin Hart) and a happily married one (Gary Owen.) The former character is included purely for comic relief, enjoying his new liberation by spending too much time at strip clubs. The latter is here to remind everyone of the ideal relationship they're all hoping for. I'll try not to read too much into the fact that the guy is hardly in the movie and we never see his wife.
The four main couples' ups and downs provide some modest laughs for a while. Directed by Tim Story (Barbershop, the Fantastic Four movies), the film might best be viewed as a glossy showcase for several likable performers who don't often get leading roles. (I'm pleased to note that while all but one of the major characters is African American, race is mentioned only in passing, and jokingly at that. This isn't a Tyler Perry movie. In fact, the script takes a couple of well-observed swipes at Perry's formula.) Facile and shallow though it may be, it's breezily inoffensive.
But it's also drastically overlong, burdened by too many stories about too many couples who are too one-dimensional to be relatable. Even when the women's suggestions are good ones -- Jeremy really should stop being complacent about his career; Michael really is too focused on his mother -- the men would rather lie to their girlfriends about improving themselves than actually improve themselves. Why? Because men are liars, duh. Meanwhile, the most serious flaw that any female character has is that she's too good at her job.
And the overarching plot doesn't make any sense. The women think the Steve Harvey book is a secret, even though it's a bestseller, and are angry when they find out the men have been reading it, too. Why? Well, because it got to be that point in the movie where the women were supposed to get angry and the men were supposed to feel bad and apologize. You know the routine. You've seen sitcoms.