MGM // 2002 // 88 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Erick Harper (Retired) // May 23rd, 2003
My name's not Hillary. Get out.
Does anyone remember thirtysomething? I thought not. Too bad, then, that the producers of that series decided to revisit the land of adult insecurities with a whole new cast of characters. The aging hippies-turned-yuppies in Women vs. Men may be ten years older than the other bunch, but they are no less self-absorbed, neurotic, or whiny than you remembered.
Michael (Joe Mantegna, The Godfather Part III) brings home a new Cadillac as a surprise gift for his wife Dana (Christine Lahti, Just Between Friends). However, he is the one surprised when, rather than being even the least bit grateful, she freaks out and leaves the house. Michael calls his best friend Bruce (Paul Reiser, Mad About You) to commiserate. Dana calls her best friend, Bruce's wife Brita (Glenne Headly, What's the Worst That Could Happen?) to do the same. Bruce shows up to console Michael, and they wind up taking their troubles on the road -- to, ahem, a "gentlemen's club." Unfortunately for them, Dana returns to the house just as they are leaving, and follows them to their destination. She ventures inside, not knowing what sort of establishment this is, and discovers both men in the midst of receiving lap dances.
This leads to a showdown between the two wives and their husbands. The women throw the men out of their respective houses temporarily. The women consult with Shelly (Jennifer Coolidge, Best in Show), their recently-divorced and rather randy neighbor. The men consult with Nick (Robert Pastorelli, Eraser), another recently-divorced friend who feels that it is his calling to "return as much of himself as possible to the Earth," or some such nonsense, by which he basically means that it is his mission to have sex with as many women as possible, thereby giving meaning to their lives, or to his, or something like that.
As you can well imagine, the rest of the evening is full of pseudo-witty comments by both sexes on the habits and attitudes of the other, followed by wacky hijinks and a touching reconciliation. I suppose that's a spoiler, but like you didn't see it coming.
I'll say this for Women vs. Men: it certainly does not discriminate by gender. Both sexes have equal reason to be insulted here. Stereotypes abound. Broad generalizations are in great supply as well, although most of them seem to have been concocted by people who have never actually had any contact with real women, or men for that matter. I am reminded of something that Dennie Gordon said in her commentary track on the Joe Dirt DVD: comedy cannot exist in an emotional vacuum; the audience has to care about or at least like the characters before comedy will truly work. That's hard to do when they aren't real people at all, and have no feelings, outside of the things that people in romantic quasi-comedies are supposed to think and feel. They say nothing that real people would say, but only what supposedly clever characters in some strange parallel universe would say if they had a really bad script. If watching two guys spout all sorts of male-oriented relationship stereotypes (most of which are not actually widely held ideas) and then watching women do the same, then this is the movie for you. It all descends into a strange sort of gamesmanship, where each side tries to out-analyze and out-strategize the other, building layer upon layer of ridiculous statements and assumptions that just don't ring true. To top things off, screenwriter David J. Burke also saw fit to make Brita some sort of psychologist, as though this were the ultimate trump card for deciphering human behavior and unknotting relationships.
The biggest tragedy here is the waste of an otherwise very talented cast. Lahti and Headly have some amusing moments, as do Pastorelli and Coolidge, who get to explore their characters' kinkier sides. Joe Mantegna is good as Michael, and brings some surprising sympathy to the role. Probably the only disappointment in the bunch is Reiser, who as usual recycles his Mad About You persona; even this is not too bad a performance, since it is what an audience expects from him. It's just a shame that such quality actors were put to work in such a lousy picture.
The picture quality presented by MGM's DVD of Women vs. Men is pretty good. In keeping with the movie's origins on Showtime, this is a full-frame transfer. The picture is nice and clear, fine details are razor-sharp, and shadowed areas show very good depth and subtle gradations. Colors are vibrant and lifelike, fully saturated without going overboard. Audio is a pleasant Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround mix. Everything is nice and clear, and dialogue is easy to hear and understand. There's not a lot here to make your sound system break a sweat, although there is a little bit of bass in the strip joint scene early in the flick.
Extra content is almost nonexistent -- just a trailer. That's it.
Please. This is the only movie I've ever seen where a guy tries to concoct some deep emotional explanation for going to a nudie bar and his wife actually buys it. Worse yet, so does the movie. If navel-gazing and psychobabble is your thing, then, by all means check out Women vs. Men. If, on the other hand, you have enough going on in your own life that you don't need to live other people's problems vicariously, then stay far, far away.
Guilty! Unfunny, clichéd, and filled with characters that just don't exist in the real world. My tip of the day for the makers of this flick: Next time you want to make a movie about relationships, try to make the people in those relationships at least vaguely human.
We stand adjourned.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Rated R