Think Like a Man: A Fresh New Funny Take

By Ryan Mason · April 23, 2012

Of all the movies hitting theaters these days based on bestselling books, it never crossed my mind that this week’s latest romantic comedy offering, Think Like A Man, would be one of them. Even as the titular Steve Harvey book, Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man, gets so much screen time that it should’ve been listed in the credits as one of the cast. Even as Harvey showed up constantly, as himself, narrating the instructions from his self-help dating book to the unlucky-in-love main characters. I figured it was all just a stale plot device. Who knew the book was real?

Now, I have no idea whether or not the book is at all helpful for those who have resorted to reading dating instructional manuals from stand-up comedians and Family Feud hosts, but as far as the movie goes, it’s surprisingly entertaining and hilarious. As a book, Think Like A Man is aimed at women, explaining how men think so that women can then use that knowledge against them to get what they want out of the relationship. As a movie, it’s aimed at men, focusing on a group of best friends living in Los Angeles – mainly, Culver City – all dealing with their own relationship issues.

Everything revolves around Cedric (Kevin Hart), the movie’s narrator and the one friend who actually been married – although, when we meet him, he’s going through a divorce. The rest of his friends – Jeremy (Jerry Ferrara), Michael (Terrence J), Dominic (Michael Ealy), and Zeke (Romany Malco) – all fit the common male archetypes: the non-committer, the mama’s boy, the dreamer, and the player, respectively. As you can imagine, except for Jeremy who is in a nine-year relationship with Kristen (Gabrielle Union), they all meet new women at the same time – Mya (Meagan Good), Candace (Regina Hall), Lauren (Taraji P. Henson) – who in turn all happen to be reading Harvey’s book, following it to a tee with their budding love interests to differing levels of success. But when the guys find out about this book (apparently they were in the dark about it like I was), they get their hands on it to then get a leg up on the fight. Because, naturally, love is some sort of war where there are winners and losers within one relationship.

You can guess how it all ends up (hint: they all get together). But, we don’t watch these movies to be surprised at the end. And there’s enough heartache and disappointment in the world as it is without watching characters on the screen end up the same way – that’s what Lars Von Trier’s movies are for. No, when we go into a PG-13 rom-com, we want our stereotypes and our familiar beats. And Think Like A Man hits all those expectedly. It’s odd how that can be sometimes so comforting.

But Think Like A Man separates itself from others of its same ilk in two ways. First, it’s really funny. Much of that credit goes to Kevin Hart, who is absolutely hysterical as Cedric, the diminutive new bachelor out on the prowl who loves giving advice by bringing up past stories about his soon-to-be ex-wife, Gail. And second, the diverse cast speaks to a post-racial America that gets alluded to all the time yet still comes crashing down to earth, like recently in the wake of the Trayvon Martin scandal. In Think Like A Man, all but two (Jeremy, and the happily married, Bennett, played by Gary Owen) of the characters are African-American yet rarely does the comedy come from the clueless white guy saying something innocently inappropriate around his black friends. Sure, it happens a couple times with Bennett, but when it does, it’s subtle and funny in the way that the characters acknowledge it just enough but then move on. They’re all friends, and race is genuinely not an issue. In fact, it’s not even talked about that Jeremy is white and his girlfriend, Kristen, is black. It’s just a fact, no big deal, not even an issue. Nor should it be, of course; but, there are still those who would find issues with that and it’d be easy to point out the obvious by having one multi-racial relationship in the film. But instead of commenting directly on it, screenwriters Keith Merryman and David A. Newman simply create the relationship, have all the other characters accept this as a non-issue, and focus on their actual problems (that Jeremy is a stoner without much ambition who won’t put a ring on that finger), which has nothing to do with either of their races. They also treat Lauren in a similar fashion, who, as a black woman, is described as being the youngest COO of a Fortune 500 company, rather than the first woman of color to hold that position.

This is not to say that race never comes up. As Michael dates single mom Candace, there are comments about her “baby daddy” and the immediate questions of perhaps he’s in prison. But, even then, it’s done briefly and then they move on. Rather than linger on racial stereotypes, Think Like A Man focuses on relationship archetypes. Sure, we’ve seen all these matters of the heart on screen before, but Think Like A Man does it with plenty of laughs and a fresh take on race that rises it up to the top of the rom-com heap so far here in 2012.