Taraji P. Henson is a supremely talented actress who can be placed in any film or television genre. Sadly, she is the only reason to see this film that is otherwise crass, uncomfortable, and hard to sit through. She deserves better.
Since Taraji P. Henson played the meek Shug who can push out monster vocals in the terrific Hustle & Flow (highway robbery for an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress in my opinion) she has proven that she is a supremely talented actress who can be plugged and played in almost any film or television genre. What other actor or actress can, like a chameleon, play Cookie in Empire, Yvette in Baby Boy, Queenie in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and Joss in Person of Interest, jumping in and out of film and television like few before her. She is the single reason to watch What Men Want, displaying her knack for comic timing and delivery, in a film that is otherwise crass, bordering on offensive, and hard to sit through.
Henson plays Ali Davis, a successful sports agent who has a roster of gold medal Olympic clients and top female athletes, like Lisa Leslie. She was raised by her pugilist father (Richard Roundtree) to be tough and fight until she hears the bell. Thinking she has an upcoming promotion for a new partner at her firm in the bag, she is passed over for a man. Her boss (played by former professional football player and Stone Cold’s Brian Bosworth) tells her the promotion is based on a unanimous vote, and she doesn’t have a major sports athlete as a client. He does tell her one more important piece of information on why she didn’t get the votes: she cannot connect with men. Luckily, she is gifted the ability to listen to any male’s inner thoughts, after hitting her head during a bachelor party after drinking a special tea from a shaman (Erykah Badu). The shaman helps Davis realize she can use this to her advantage, and take advantage she does, as she attempts to land a big-name NBA prospect whose father (Tracy Morgan) is standing in her way
What Men Want has the typical clichés of movies of this ilk and gives most of its characters the stereotype treatment as most are one-note and not at all three-dimensional. Henson is forced to single-handedly carry the film on her own shoulders, doing what she can with a script that is this listless and charmless, while firing off jokes as if it doesn’t trust an audience to handle anything funnier than men thinking eternal thoughts about passing gas or “tapping that”. Besides enjoying the chemistry she has with actor Aldis Hodge, who plays Mike, a single father who is strong enough to not be scared off by a strong woman, the rest is too tall of a task for any actor to carry on their own. Henson deserves better.
M.N. Miller has been a film and television writer for Ready Steady Cut since August of 2018 and is patiently waiting for the next Pearl Jam album to come out.