Wednesday, April 18, 2012 | 11:58 a.m.
It may look at first like an ensemble romantic comedy, but Think Like a Man is actually a feature-length advertisement for comedian and radio host Steve Harvey’s self-help book Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, which the movie promotes as the Holy Grail of relationship advice. Each of the four romantic pairings in the movie illustrates different concepts from Harvey’s book, and the author himself pops up regularly to dispense his wisdom. One character who initially dismisses Harvey’s advice soon learns the error of her ways, and the movie shows bookstore patrons practically mauling each other to get to the last copy in stock.
Somewhere in there is a plot, about four male friends (played by Michael Ealy, Romany Malco, Terrence J and Jerry Ferrara) navigating relationships with women who’ve decided to take Harvey’s advice to heart. These ladies (played by Taraji P. Henson, Meagan Good, Regina Hall and Gabrielle Union) use all of Harvey’s manipulative tricks to get their men where they want them, only to have the men discover Harvey’s book and use it to their own advantage. As far as the movie’s concerned, this kind of secretive game-playing is the key to success in relationships, and only when both the male and female characters have successfully conformed to traditional gender roles can their romances work.
It’s an annoyingly reductive and sexist worldview, and when the characters are so one-dimensional to begin with, it’s hard for them to transcend such a simplistic approach. Ealy and Henson have the best chemistry and the most believable relationship, but even their dynamic ultimately succumbs to Harvey’s conservative romantic agenda. The rest of the cast is bland but likable, and comedian Kevin Hart steals every scene he’s in as the main characters’ happily divorced buddy, who’s free from having to adhere to the Harvey party line (at least until the very end, when he too must be paired up in the most traditional way possible). It’s far too rare to see a mainstream comedy populated almost entirely by African-American stars, and these actors all deserve better than being forced to spout dubious relationship advice from an egomaniac.