Our review of What Women Want (2011), published December 26th, 2011, is also available.
Finally…a man is listening.
Mel Gibson is a funny guy. If you've ever seen any of the Lethal Weapon movies, you already know that Gibson has a keen eye for comedy and perfect timing. It was just a matter of time before Mel was thrust into an out-and-out comedy (Bird on a Wire doesn't count), and that time has come with What Women Want. A romantic/fantasy/comedy also starring Academy Award winners Helen Hunt (Twister, As Good As It Gets), Marisa Tomei (My Cousin Vinny), and Alan "I'm still working in movies?" Alda (Crimes and Misdemeanors), What Women Want attempts to answer the question man has been asking since the dawn of time: "Why do women go to the washroom in flocks?" Paramount hands the consumer what they want with a packed DVD edition of What Women Want.
Facts of the Case
Nick Marshall (Gibson) has what every guy would want: looks, talent, success, and a suave way with the ladies. Nick is also insensitive, chauvinistic, bullheaded and crass. Nick works for one of the hottest ad agencies in Chicago and is living the good life…until Darcy McGuire (Hunt) breezes into his life, taking a promotion he was sure was his. Darcy has been hired by Dan (Alda), the head associate, to gain the agency's more lucrative female-oriented clientele. Nick suddenly finds his life and career in crisis.
While at home drinking and trying on women's accessories (don't worry, it's all for work), Nick literally stumbles into a freak accident that leaves him with the one power that every man on the planet earth wants: to hear what women are thinking. At first this seems to be a curse, as now Nick hears all the things women think about him ("pig," "moron," and other not-so-nice sentiments). After a quick therapy session with Dr. Perkins (a small cameo by Bette Midler), Nick realizes that he has a gift of unparalleled proportions.
With his newfound talent intact, Nick plans to retrieve Darcy's job by stealing her ideas. All goes according to plan until Nick runs head-on into the one thing he never expected…love (everyone say it with me with warm, fuzzy feeling…aawwwww). While balancing both his feelings for Darcy and his visiting 15-year old daughter's raging hormones, Nick's got to get his life on track, his job in place, and find out just What Women Want!
What Women Want has some funny parts to it. It also has some not so funny parts to it. Then there are a few more funny parts. Then it's over. That's about all I took out of it. If films were weighed on substance, Schindler's List would be Beef Wellington and What Women Want would clock in as a cracker. It's light, it's flaky, and when you're done you're no better off than when you started.
Gibson is adept at playing a lead comedic role. He has the timing and the stammer to make even mediocre lines sound light and fun. Given the right material (What Women Want is halfway there) Gibson has a second career ahead of himself after he's too old to make slam-bang-boom action flicks. His character here is portrayed as a jackass, but Gibson has a hard time pulling that off; he's just too darn nice. I'd have an easier time believing that Nick was a rocket scientist than a mean spirited putz.
Helen Hunt has proved that she has star quality. She knows how to play disgruntled sadness with a hint of hope to a tee. She was excellent in As Good As It Gets, and was out acted by a wind tunnel in Twister (don't worry Helen, it over shadowed everyone). Here she falls somewhere in between. She works well in her role, though there's not much depth or complexity to her. Her job is to fall for Mel. How hard is that?
What Women Want is presented in anamorphic widescreen and looks excellent. This is a new print, so the absence of grain or dirt is not surprising. Edge enhancement was non-existent, with colors being bright and blacks solid. A tiny amount of compression was spotted, though only slightly. A very well done transfer by Paramount.
Audio includes Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), as well as Dolby Surround (English and French). Though What Women Want seems like the type of movie (romantic comedy) that wouldn't utilize surround sound, it actuality performs nicely. When Nick is running through a group of jogging women, their thoughts surround the viewer just as they do Nick. Dialogue was crystal clear with sounds and Alan Silvestri's music score mixed evenly. Also available is a surround sound track as well as English subtitles.
Extra features include a couple of non-anamorphic theatrical trailers, plus a couple of shorts, "The Making-Of What Women Want" and "A Look Inside What Women Want." Both documentaries include many shots from the film, as well as the actors and crew (and more extensively with director Meyers), talking about their thoughts on the film, characterization, et cetera. Some behind-the-scenes shots are included, as well as some talk about what the director wanted the film to feel like (the old Hepburn/Tracy films). An insightful, if light, look at the film.
Finally there is a commentary track with director Meyers and production designer Jon Hutman. Both talk openly about the film and seem proud of the work they've accomplished. The production design in the film was excellent, so it's nice to have Hutman on board for the commentary to discuss aspects on why certain things were done. Meyers discusses the meaning of the movie (in case you missed it, which is highly unlikely). There are some lapses of silence, but overall it's a nice track for fans of the film.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
What Women Want takes an interesting premise and does the best it can. Maybe an important aspect to watching What Women Want is to have a date next to you to laugh with and nod at the little "truths" pointed out by the film. If that's the case, then I was watching What Women Want at the wrong time with the wrong person (my mom, who is attractive, but my Oedipal side died years ago). The script has humorous moments (I especially liked Gibson's painful attempt at waxing one of his legs, and his bewilderment at why any woman would wax the second one as well), but there aren't enough of them to sustain a film. What Women Want often lapses into scenes of pointlessness (an extended scene with a suicidal assistant turns into sheer boredom), and it takes much too long to get to the actual story of Nick's insightful gift.
This is not to say that What Women Want is a bad film, only a misguided one. I had a hard time believing that this was what women really did want. Nick's frog-into-a-prince story is a bit of a stretch. I believe that everyone can change. I just don't believe that a guy with Nick's upbringing and years of success and conquests could so quickly turn him into an understanding male, even with his extraordinary abilities. Maybe this was just one of those days when my suspension of disbelief was off; who knows. Either way, it's still a bit far-fetched to believe.
Finally, I know that all the ladies were just swooning over Mel's big dance number to Mr. Old Blue Eyes, but I found it to be very long and very uncomfortable. Then again, I'm sure the ladies said the same thing about the numbers in Showgirls, yet I enjoyed that more than a mile long buffet filled with crab legs and cheesecake.
I'd recommend this title as a rental first, then see if you're interested in picking it up for your home collection. What Women Want does have funny stuff in it, and Mel Gibson is always a hoot to watch. I felt a tad nauseous after seeing him in pantyhose with his nails painted, but for some of you this may be a treat. Some nice extras, a crisp transfer and audio mix, romance a-plenty…who knows, this may just be What Women Want.
A light sentence is given for some general drudgery with many scenes, but for those of you with romance on your minds this may be a lot of fun. Paramount is acquitted of all charges for producing a fine DVD.
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Scales of Justice
• Two Theatrical Trailers
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