The only thing I want is more Taraji P. Henson, all the time, always.
Debilitating illnesses, screaming children, and now, winter ice storms. I really will brave anything to bring you these reviews. I trekked through blistering winds and flurries of snow to see the latest offering from the world of reboots, What Men Want (2019), and I have to admit that it was actually worth the near-death experience. In my review for Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018) – which you can check out here – I described star Taraji P. Henson as “eternally charismatic,” and deserving of more roles that showed her range as a comedic actress. In What Men Want Henson is the definition of charisma and knocks things out of the park comedically. You guys, I ended up really liking this movie.
A gender-flipped remake of the Mel Gibson romantic comedy What Women Want (2000), What Men Want follows sports agent Ali Davis, played by Henson, as she struggles with constantly being undermined and shut down at her male-dominated office. After a psychic’s concoction and a bump to the head grant Ali the ability to hear men’s thoughts, she uses her newfound power to get ahead at work and beat her colleagues at signing Jamal Barry, the next big name in professional basketball.
I’ll be honest. As I made my way into the theatre, I was having flashbacks to Ghostbusters (2016). You know, an unnecessarily modernized reboot of a movie that came out decades ago? Fortunately, as soon as the movie started, all of my doubts faded away and I soon found myself having a thoroughly enjoyable movie-going experience. What Men Want may not reach the comedic heights of recent hits like Girls Trip (2017) or Crazy Rich Asians (2018), but it does its damndest to entertain and wastes no time doing so. Right away the movie introduces Ali and her successful lifestyle, but more importantly, it introduces us to the dynamic between her and long-suffering assistant Brandon. Henson and Josh Brener, who plays Brandon, play off each other with a rapport that is so naturally hilarious, I kind of want there to be a What Men Want TV show just so I can get more of them together. The perfect straight-man for Henson’s wacky antics, Brener hits every comedic note you want a sidekick to hit, and I sincerely hope he has a chance to make a name for himself as a leading man in 2019. Hell, I’d even be happy if he gets to play more sidekick roles. Brener is a fresh-faced talent that I can’t wait to see more of in the future.
Okay, so now’s the part of the review where I get to gush over the “eternally-charismatic” Taraji P. Henson. I love her. In everything I see her in, no matter the genre, she never fails to blow me away. A truly gifted performer who is game for seemingly any role, it boggles the mind how one actress can succeed so greatly at both drama and comedy. I mean, hello, Hidden Figures (2016)? I’m still shook over that bathroom monologue. In What Men Want, Henson’s comedic chops are on full display as she succumbs to the zaniness of the role she’s playing, and delivers a performance that had me howling in my seat. Whether it’s the perfect sly comeback or a crazed expression, it’s amazing how effortless Henson makes landing a joke, sight gag, or piece of physical comedy look. As hilarious as she is though, Henson is also able to play the more vulnerable side of Ali, ensuring that audiences care about the character while still having a lot of fun with her.
And boy, did I have a lot of fun with Henson and this movie. As I was looking over my notes for this review, I was amazed that I didn’t have any overwhelming negative critique. Sure, What Men Want may not be one of the best or most original comedies ever, but it’s a highly enjoyable movie-going experience that had me smiling all the way through. What Men Want is a rare movie in that it’s a reboot that is less concerned with emulating the success of its predecessor, and more focused on creating a new, independent story that’s inspired by What Women Want. What Men Want uses its source material as a jumping-off point and crafts a story that delivers something entirely different from the story it’s based on. It’s a story that at times may be familiar and predictable, but it’s so damn entertaining, full of charming actors, and packed with genuinely funny jokes, that you really couldn’t care less.
It works in the movie’s favour that it’s Rated R, because if it were neutered and had a PG-13 rating, nearly all of the jokes wouldn’t be as funny. Let’s just say that when your movie’s premise is hearing what goes on inside a man’s head, a lot of those thoughts aren’t going to be suitable for a family viewing. Sure, a majority of the thoughts that Ali is able to hear are body or sex-related, but they’re often jokes made at the men’s expense, giving Ali and the audience an inside look at just how ridiculous the inner-workings of the male mind can be. Actually, the men’s thoughts are a healthy mix of being hilariously realistic, and hilariously absurd. A lot of the humour does stem from how terrible men can be, but the movie doesn’t beat a dead horse and is able to find comedy in other places as well. Oh my God, you know what one of the most unintentionally hilarious parts of this movie was? Whenever Ali is listening to a man’s thoughts, neither she or the man is talking, so there are just long stretches of time where it looks like the characters are just staring at each other silently. It looked so damn silly and I loved every second of it.
With a supporting cast that includes Tracy Morgan, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Erykah Badu, Max Greenfield, and a pre-Ariana Pete Davidson, What Men Want is a great movie to see with your friends over the long weekend. Try to go to a later showing when the theatre is more likely to be full and there are more people to laugh at the jokes. I went during the day when there were like six other people there, and their laughter was sporadic. I think some people just feel a little self-conscious about laughing out loud in a near-empty theatre. Honestly, I felt like turning to each one of them and going, “clearly you don’t understand how hilarious Taraji P. Henson is being for our entertainment, so I’m going to need you to go ahead and start dying of laughter now.”
Finally, I leave you with this. Take a flask with you and drink every time a character mentions Fiji water, or the product is visible in a scene. Seriously, it pops up a lot more than you’d expect.
Are you a fan of Taraji P. Henson? Will you see What Men Want?
Let me know in the comments or on social media!