Review in a Hurry: There are several things to like about the multicharacter romantic comedy Think Like a Man, among them its matter-of-fact color-blindness, its attempt to really flesh out every character in the ensemble cast and the subtly ironic way it completely undercuts the points of the book it's supposed to be plugging at every turn. Unfortunately, the aspects that are less likable—the cheap production values, excessive length and lackadaisically paced editing—kill what could have been a sharp comedy.
The Bigger Picture: If you're going to kick off your comedy about how men need to get their act together with multiple digs at the formulaic nature of Tyler Perry movies, you had better make a film that is markedly superior to the latest installment of Madea in every way. That hasn't been achieved here.
Director Tim Story is best known for the (unfairly maligned) Fantastic Four movies and the first Barbershop, so it's no surprise that group dynamics are his strong suit. But those movies all have a decent sense of pacing: Ice Cube & Co.'s jokes are well timed, while the Fantastic Four flicks are reasonably concise. And yet 120 minutes were needed for an adaptation of a Steve Harvey self-help book? Story's last name feels more ironic than ever in a production that has such little sense of how to tell one.
Recently divorced Cedric (Kevin Hart) is our smart-mouthed narrator, and his friends all fit various classic male types. The Dreamer (Michael Ealy) is a guy who keeps quitting his jobs to pursue every new, impulsive pipe dream—the economy is apparently doing just fine in this fictional world, with decent job openings accessible to all at the drop of a hat and turn of a plot point. The Player (Romany Malco) just wants to get laid, and is such a smooth talker that he's very good at it. The Non-Committer (Jerry Ferrara) is your typical Judd Apatow character—a stoner who collects toys and won't pop the question, even to Gabrielle Union in a Voltron T-shirt. The Mama's Boy (Terrence Jenkins) is, well...self-explanatory. Then there's the boring guy (Gary Owen) who gets no storyline and is happily married to someone we never see.
When all the guys start realizing that the women they're seeing—among them Meagan Good, Taraji P. Henson and Regina Hall—all use the same buzzwords, like "long-term goals," they realize the ladies are using the playbook outlined in Steve Harvey's Act Like a Woman, Think Like a Man. Yes, Harvey shows up on a TV screen to explain every rule, which was presumably part of the deal when it came to optioning his book. Yet despite the fact that said tome is constantly pimped, this is a romantic comedy like so many others in which gimmicks turn out not to work half as well as sincerity. In other words, arbitrary rules are dumb, even if famous comedian/game-show host Steve Harvey comes up with them. We wonder if he noticed that aspect of the movie.
This can be said: it's a more lively tale than many other romantic comedies that Union has appeared in, usually with Morris Chestnut. But it's so sloppily made—one key scene seemingly uses a blown-up, out-of-focus photo of downtown L.A. pretending to be the real thing—that the good lines and characters can't be enjoyed to their full potential. If this movie were a man, it would be The Fixer-Upper. Big time.
The 180—a Second Opinion: The opening sequence, in which Boondocks-style animation depicts the history of cavemen, is an innovative and stylish choice. More such left-field elements would have been welcome.