When it comes to “What Men Want,” you’ve seen most (if not all) of it before. This gender-swapping comedy, loosely inspired by the Nancy Meyers’ 2000 movie “What Women Want,” flips the script so this time it’s a powerful businesswoman who is given the temporary power to hear men’s inner thoughts.
Ali (Taraji P. Henson) is an accomplished sports agent who is constantly shut out by her male colleagues. After being passed over yet again for a promotion to partner, she goes to a party with her best friends (Phoebe Robinson, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Tamala Jones). One of them has hired a beauty shop psychic (a very funny Erykah Badu) and after having her fortune read, Ali takes a nasty fall at a club, hits her head, and wakes up with her new advantageous gift. She not only uses it to jump start her love life (and fleece her jerk coworkers at poker night), but also to get ahead in her male-dominated workplace.
Fans of romantic comedies will find little to criticize because this film is so easy to like. The jokes are consistently hilarious, and rarely take the cheap shots that you’d expect. Yes, there are the ‘idiot white male’ stereotypes, but for every guy like that, there’s a surprisingly thoughtfully written character. The supporting cast shines and secondary characters are treated with respect. Especially enjoyable is Josh Brener as Ali’s put-upon assistant (and would-be best friend) Brandon and her hunky bartender love interest, Will (Aldis Hodge). One man is gay and the other is a widowed single dad, but there are no mean-spirited jokes made at their expense. The film’s modern sensibilities are refreshing.
Not everything runs smoothly, with Tracy Morgan‘s irritating and distracting turn as the controlling dad of an up-and-coming young basketball superstar (Shane Paul McGhie) and a grand finale in a church that is a little too over the top. But there’s far more good material here than bad.
The funny script doesn’t stoop to cheap jokes and instead targets humor that will appeal to more cosmopolitan females (and yes, there’s plenty for men to enjoy here too). The film accurately portrays what it’s like to be a hardworking woman in a man’s world, and it does so with a goofy grace and playfulness that’s contagious. When paired with the charismatic, sassy powerhouse Henson, this material meets its perfect match.