Judge Gordon Sullivan tries to think like a wallaby, whenever he can.
Let the mind games begin.
The self-help industry does significant business every year, selling hopeful customers the promise of increased productivity, better self-esteem, less weight, or more success in love. Of course it doesn't take a hardcore Marxist to notice that even a single book that achieved one of these things would immediately wipe out the market. Since that hasn't happened yet, we can only conclude that no matter how many of these books people buy they don't really help. I assume the same is true of Steve Harvey's 2009 opus Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man. In the film based on the book (and "based" is a loose term for "is a 122-minute product-placement for), there is the opportunity to get humor out of life, love, and the self-help industry. Instead, viewers get a series of clichéd encounters and one-dimensional characters.
Four ladies take the advice of Steve Harvey from his book Act like a Lady, Think Like a Man, which will purportedly teach them how to take control of their love lives. The men in their lives learn, however, that the ladies are going to be using the book's techniques against them. When the ladies realize the men have figured out that they're playing them, a battle of the sexes ensues.
Cinema and commerce have been friends since the first cinematographic machine was cobbled together. Think Like a Man takes that relationship (ha!) to a new level by spending a significant amount of its 122-minute running time on the book. Steve Harvey did in fact write a book called Act like a Lady, Think Like a Man (as well as a follow-up about "keeping a man"). Harvey is a comedian and media personality by trade, and one would hope that his book is being funny. Alas, no, though the book uses humor, he's deadly serious in his intent to tell women how to catch and keep men.
That's not a huge problem in itself. No, the problem is that Think Like a Man takes the book itself seriously. Harvey has no qualifications for giving any kind of romantic advice—except having lived for a few decades and being divorced twice—so the idea that the characters in this film would take his advice seriously is sad, not amusing. The plot (and, I assume, the book) assumes that men are just stock characters who can and should be manipulated (either by the script or by the women who buy the book). Consequently, we get scenario after scenario where completely undeveloped characters yell at or fall in love with (there doesn't seem to be much difference) other stock, one-dimensional characters. It would be offensive if it weren't just plain boring.
So many things could have made the film at least watchable. Trimming it to focus on two or even three couples would have pulled down the two-hour running time. Taking a critical approach to the idea of self-help books and the idea that you need to pay someone to tell you to rely on yourself. There's also some nascent critique of the Tyler Perry film movement and it's too-trite reliance on heavy handed melodrama. If Think Like a Man didn't fall into the exact same trance (minus, perhaps, the family aspects), it would be a much more effective film.
Shot digitally, Think Like a Man looks clear and sharp on this DVD release. Colors pop, and black levels are appropriately deep in this 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer. No serious compression artifacts mar the presentation. The 5.1 surround mix privileges dialogue in the center channel, with some surround activity.
DVD buyers get 6 minutes of deleted scenes, and another 6 minutes of gag reel. There's also an Ultraviolet Digital Copy of the film available. Those looking for all the extras should turn to the Blu-ray release, which contains another 25 minutes of bonus featurettes.
The insult added to the injury of the film is that it is generally well-acted. The cast is all attractive, sympathetic actors. Though they're given one-dimensional roles to inhabit, everyone takes to them with humor and a surprising intelligence. Given the age and attractiveness of the cast, the film has no need to wonder if they can find partners. Once again, the film misses the opportunity for self-reflection about Hollywood and beauty stereotypes that could have made the film funnier. Alternatively, they could have cast actresses less likely to turn heads.
Read Steve Harvey's book if you must, but Think Like a Man thinks so little of its audience it's not worth your time. Only those who love the actors should even consider renting this flick.
Guilty of overselling.
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