Plenty of ensemble cast members get their individual chances to shine in Think Like a Man, but the actor who’s got to be happiest with the finished product must be one with very little screen time.
That would be comedian Steve Harvey, whose self-help relationship book Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man provides the basis for this romantic comedy involving the intertwining stories of several friends in contemporary Los Angeles.
But Harvey doesn’t need many lines in what amounts to a two-hour infomercial. The book is plugged so many times visually and verbally that moviegoers might need to check twice to make sure there’s not an order form on the back of the ticket stub.
That aside, the film boasts some appealing performances but is bogged down by a screenplay that settles for generic one-liners at the expense of meaningful relationship insight.
Harvey’s book provides the launching point for a battle of the sexes with a half-dozen basketball buddies dealing with various relationship issues ranging from a fear of commitment to a lack of upward mobility.
They meet their match with a collection of women who have each read Harvey’s book and have developed strict, and sometimes unreasonable, standards as a result. Alas, the secret to happiness is compromise.
The cast includes a mix of fresh faces and established names. Kevin Hart, Romany Malco, Jerry Ferrera and Michael Ealy are among the men (with hip-hop superstar Chris Brown playing a smaller role as a womanizer), while the women are represented by Gabrielle Union, Taraji P. Henson, Meagan Good and Regina Hall.
Think Like a Man is pleasant enough in the first half, even if the script by Keith Merryman and David Newman (Friends With Benefits) insists on a structure so mechanical that you expect a scoreboard to show up in the corner of the screen.
Meanwhile, director Tim Story (Fantastic Four) keeps the pace lively despite a bloated running time, and the chemistry between the half-dozen male leads is convincing, even their individual actions sometimes are not.
The jokes manage a modest hit-to-miss ratio, yet the stale gags about race and homosexuality feel more obligatory than genuine.
It’s the romance that is more problematic in a film that never makes it clear whether the audience is supposed to laugh with Harvey’s lighthearted tips, or laugh at them.
Rated PG-13, 122 minutes.