Editor’s note: Metta World Peace elbowed James Harden during a game on 22 April: he’s now suspended for seven games.
Ah yes, it’s a man’s world. You’re reminded of this in the first moments of Think Like A Man, which trots out James Brown’s classic ode. Then comes Steve Harvey, whose bestselling book, Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man, serves as the movie’s inspiration. As the movie shows nature-film-style footage of boys becoming men by hunting, he makes his claim: women need to learn to think like men in order to… hunt them.
This perversely retro premise is instantly compounded. Structured as the interrelated stories of several couples, the movie begins with the men, who are affiliated by way of their regular basketball game and subsequent boys-night drinking. The women—smart, pretty, educated—are hoping to land these remarkable prizes. You won’t need to have read the book to know that Kristen (Gabrielle Union) is in for trouble when her live-in boyfriend Jeremy (Jerry Ferrara) is introduced in a chapter name, “The Non-Committer,” that is, the guy who still has his beer-stained college-days sofa and does not have a job, and whose birthday gift in a little jewelry box will most certainly not be a ring. And you certainly aren’t surprised to learn that single mom Candace (Regina Hall) will run into a particular sort of resistance when her new boyfriend Michael (Terence Jenkins) is named “The Mama’s Boy” (cue carping by Loretta, played by Jenifer Lewis).
Candace discusses her problems with her best friend, successful executive Lauren (Taraji P. Henson), who has her own chapter in the book, “The Woman Who Is Her Own Man.” You might imagine that her standards are high, a point that Candace makes clearly. But still, she falls into an instant idiot’s trap, mistaking the valet Dominic (Michael Ealy) for the guy who owns the car he’s driving. The valet has a chapter title too, “The Dreamer,” meaning that he hasn’t yet figured out how to put his dreams into motion, but he still has dreams. This is more than can be said for Cedric (Kevin Hart), the designated motor-mouthed lout, who is categorically repellant in his every interaction with a woman and begins the film by announcing he’s left his wife and feels relieved to have done it. Can you guess what his lesson will be?
The movie thus sets for itself two gigantic hurdles. The first is the bromide that “women” might need to consult a book by Steve Harvey to know how to court men (or to think like them, even as the movie suggests that such activity is remarkably backwards and corny, not to mention utterly knowable). And second, even if Think Like a Man intends no surprises, it limits its joke range. In a man’s world, apparently, the jokes are uniformly crass and silly, and have to do with sex or dick size. They’re also unimaginative and unfunny. (An exception is a brief meta-allusion allowed by Ealy’s filmography, namely, Dominic’s complaint about the end of For Colored Girls, when “some crazy guy throws his kids out the window.”)
In Harvey’s man’s world, the guys face extra anxieties. Not only do they worry that their physical prowess might be inadequate, but also, as Cedric announces, the “balance of power has shifted.” Poor guys! Thus Zeke (Romany Malco), The Player, can’t easily wow Mya, The 90-Day-Rule Girl (Meagan Good) with his nice ride and fine outfits, because she has her own. Now he has to ponder how to think like a woman. The dilemma is reduced further when the men discover the women are reading Harvey’s book, and so read Harvey’s book too, in order to trick and then double-trick one another.
The banality is briefly interrupted—or maybe just underlined—when one of the men’s regular basketball games leads to an encounter with a few local (LA) ballers, including Shannon Brown, Lisa Leslie, Matt Barnes, and Metta World Peace. When Cedric puffs his chest and struts, the tall people agree to a game to determine who has rights to the court. As he negotiates with the pipsqueaks, World Peace is at once charismatic and unbelieving; you can imagine him wondering, as ou are, just how he came to be in this ridiculous situation. His scene is brief, but you don’t need to see more than three seconds of it to wish the movie was another one, set in Metta’s world.