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In 2000, Nancy Meyers directed Mel Gibson in the romantic comedy What Women Want, about a sexist ad exec who after a bizarre electrocution accident becomes able to telepathically hear women’s thoughts. This puts Mel in a position to answer Freud’s notorious question and find out what they want. Which turns out to be, in a very real sense … Mel. Because he can totally be the sensitive guy he can hear them silently demanding.
Now screenwriters Tina Gordon, Peter Huyck and Alex Gregory have flipped the premise with What Men Want, directed by Adam Shankman. Taraji P Henson plays Ali Davis, a super-driven sports agent who fails to make partner at her prestigious firm and suspects that the men are quietly carving up the cake without her. Then she gets the magic powers.
The title doesn’t quite work with the assumptions switched. These men don’t “want” in the same excluded and exotically mysterious sense the women did. Maybe it should be called What Men Have. And Ali doesn’t yearn to get in touch with her inner masculinity in the same way that Mel cutely explored his feminine side. She already knows about her masculine side: she wants to kick ass with the men, she appears to be the only female executive in the entire industry and wishes to represent a young male star. And when she begins to hear the shy, tremulous thoughts of her young gay assistant Brandon (Josh Brener), it’s almost as if the first movie’s dynamic is being duplicated, not reversed.
Henson brings a charge of energy to every scene and there are some funny moments (although a Michael Jackson joke now feels wrong). When Ali invites herself to the male execs’ poker night, her superpowers make dramatic sense: she knows how to get respect by winning and how to flatter with a strategic loss. A win for Henson.
Source: The Guardian
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