What Men Want
- Katherine McLaughlin
- 11 March 2019
Empire's Taraji P Henson shows off her superb slapstick skills in this loose and somewhat predictable remake
Nearly twenty years ago, Mel Gibson starred in What Women Want, a Nancy Meyers comedy about a male chauvinist pig who is magically able to hear women's thoughts. Now, the tables are turned as Adam Shankman (Rock of Ages) takes the helm of a loose remake which places an African-American woman at the fore. It's a neat corrective that casts the charismatic and dynamically funny Taraji P Henson as sports agent Ali (named after legendary boxer Muhammad by her dad), who is suddenly privy to the vile musings of her male co-workers.
As the pressure mounts on Ali to have it all – the hot man, the big promotion, a close-knit group of girlfriends, the friendship of her gay male assistant – she comes to the realisation that she is incredibly selfish. It's a bit of a low blow considering how imbalanced the playing field is when it comes to the workplace, with the flimsy script failing to make the most of a battle of the sexes premise. Seriously lacking in biting humour, the narrative instead fits into a predictable rom-com mould. The Oscar-nominated, Emmy-winning Henson does much of the heavy lifting with an impressive physical performance that's tuned into the fine art of slapstick. She's hilarious as she whacks men in the balls or awkwardly mounts them, though when it comes to the actual sex it's a bit of a stuffy affair.
There are a few memorable turns from the supporting cast – including 2 Dope Queens creator Phoebe Robinson, who gets some zingers, and Erykah Badu, who has a ball as a wacky psychic called Sister. As Badu strokes her long acrylic nails over the magic tea that kickstarts this whole debacle, she summons the spirit of huckster Oda Mae Brown from Ghost; for all its apparent progressive intentions, this revamp has a similar whiff of the 90s about it.
General release from Fri 15 Mar.