Starring: Taraji P. Henson, Tracy Morgan, Josh Brener
Director: Adam Shankman
Running Time: 117 mins
What Men Want is an American film about a woman working at the top level of a sports marketing firm, surrounded by men in her everyday job. However, when she suddenly gains the ability to hear men’s thoughts, she begins to use this power to her advantage.
While not necessarily a direct remake of What Women Want, What Men Want is a good exercise in reversing gender roles, telling a largely similar story with an interesting series of different results. Looked at on its own, the film is a lot of fun, with a thoroughly likable lead turn from Taraji P. Henson, although it’s fair to say that the film’s emotional depth isn’t always quite as effective as it wants it to be.
So, let’s just start off by looking at this film in isolation of its predecessor. For the most part, What Men Want is a thoroughly entertaining movie, with great comedy, charismatic performances and some really lovely moments that fit the fable-like drama of its fantasy premise.
The highlight of the film is without doubt the lead performance from Taraji P. Henson, who is wonderfully funny and hugely charismatic right from the start. We’ll talk more in a second about how that works in the context of this story, but it’s a joy to spend these two hours with her.
In comparison to What Women Want, What Men Want also seems to have a sharper, or at least quicker, sense of humour. The film is a little more energetic and a little less cheesy, which makes it a lot of fun to watch throughout, particularly in a couple of brilliant scenes featuring sparring matches between Taraji P. Henson and her male counterparts.
Where the film really differs from its predecessor, however, is in the way that it tells the moral of its story, and the overall arc that Henson’s character works her way through.
For the most part, the big difference sees Henson effectively gain ground on the men around her, whereas Mel Gibson in What Women Want, learns to bring himself back down to earth and to appreciate the women around him.
It’s an important distinction because it really shapes the way that you view the characters. Gibson starts off What Women Want as an unlikable, chauvinistic character, so it’s good to see him change his ways by the end of the movie and become more empathetic and understanding of women.
Henson, on the other hand, starts off the film as an already likable, strong-willed character, which you would think would work against the power of the film’s fable-like story. However, because we see her ‘gain’ as a result of her sudden ability to hear men’s thoughts, it works well, as you support her drive all the way from the start of the film.
So, What Men Want is a lot more than just a rehash of What Women Want. There are elements of the original film that make it arguably more emotionally resonant, but What Men Want also wins out when it comes to sharp, quick-witted comedy.
Overall, however, with strong performances, good humour, strong morals and an interesting way of refreshing the original story, What Men Want works as a thoroughly enjoyable watch, which is why I’m giving it a 7.5.