What Men Want Review: What Is This Movie Trying to Sell Us? | The Mary Sue
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What Men Want Review: What Is This Movie Trying to Sell Us?

2.5 out of 5 fun boys!

When What Women Want came out, it gave us the idea that a man could change if you let him hear the inner thoughts of a woman. The problem was that none of us really think the way that movie depicts us, and it was just a message that men should … listen—a thing that should have already been known.

So when What Men Want was being made, my first thought was “why?” and I continue to think that over and over again now that I’ve seen the movie. I’m like 90% sure the end of this movie is saying that women just need to listen to men, which … it is 2019. We’ve done our listening—2019+ years of it.

That’s the majority of my problem with What Men Want: I don’t know what this movie is trying to sell me. As I was leaving the theater, I cared more about the men in the movie than I did Ali Davis (Taraji P. Henson). First, let’s talk about her name. Her father loves boxing and owns his own boxing studio. Ali, which is inconsistently pronounced like Muhammad Ali and other times like the nickname for Allison, wanted to be a boxer (she admits at the end of the movie?) but ended up being an agent for athletes.

Obviously, where she works is a boys’ club, and no matter how many times she tries to make partner, another man always takes her spot. Her girlfriends and even her assistant tell her that it’s because she doesn’t know how to relate to men, and so a psychic gives her the ability to hear the thoughts of men.

Here is the first instance where I don’t know what this movie is trying to sell me: The men and their thoughts. Some are what we would deem as “typically male thought patterns,” I guess, which is fart jokes and gross things like Tracy Morgan just having toast in his pocket. Others are more surprising. There’s a nice storyline between Pete Davidson’s character and Josh Brener’s, where Ali realizes that Davidson’s character isn’t attracted to her, but rather, Brener’s character.

The problem with the “thoughts” is that they still aren’t how men think. Will, Ali’s kind of boyfriend throughout the film, tells her that listening to men’s thoughts isn’t how you get to know them. You have to listen to their heart. Yes, it is that cheesy.

What bugged me the most was that I’m almost positive that the message of this movie is that a woman who is good at her job and wants to succeed is just as bad as a man who is a womanizer (if we’re looking back to What Woman Want). Sure, by the end of the movie, Ali ends up figuring out that she doesn’t have to answer to the men in her life and can be her own boss, but it takes an entire movie of men to show that she’s better than what they are giving her.

If anything, the best part of this movie is that Ali judges Max Greenfield and finds out (through his thoughts, of course) that he’s a pretty good guy who thinks she’s incredible at her job. So … is that the point of this movie? To show to me that Max Greenfield is great and that women can be their own bosses after being put through the ringer by men?

Maybe I’m being too harsh. I did laugh at times, and I did have a woman who loudly laughed and yelled out, “He got violated,” when Ali slept with Will for the first time, so it was quite the experience, but I still think it could have been a lot better. With a clear message and showing Ali that these men were out to get her from the start (with the exception of her assistant and Max Greenfield), What Women Want could have had something great for audiences.

Instead, we got a kind of half-baked remake starring Taraji P. Henson (an obvious upgrade from Mel Gibson, but there was no Helen Hunt in sight). Maybe this is just proving that in 2019, we’re above the somewhat sexist romcom (even if it’s about “reverse sexism” and showing that a woman can prejudge men, too).

But are we surprised by this movie at all? It was written by two men and a woman, and directed and produced by men. So sure, the message is going to be that women don’t listen to men when we’ve had to listen to men for the last however many centuries. We’ve been listening, and clearly y’all aren’t listening to us, cause you’re making movies like this.

Oh wait! Did I forget to mention that, to make the deal with Jamal Berry, an up-and-coming basketball player, Ali pretends that Will and his son are her family? Will, who, when they slept together for the first time, tried to explain to her that his wife had passed away, and she was rude to him? And then she … didn’t tell him she was pretending they were her family?

You can write women who want to succeed and who can not ruin relationships in their life to get there. We can be better with our characters and make it work.

I came out of a movie with a female lead loving all the men instead of her, when that should not have been the point of this movie in the slightest. I gave it two stars because of Greenfield, the cute bespeckled Brener, and Will and his son, Ben. Let’s hear it for the boys!

It is truly upsetting to me that I did not like this movie. I haven’t watched What Women Want since it came out, but I remember enjoying that movie, at least. What Men Want doesn’t work because the idea that a successful woman who deserves a promotion that she’s not getting because of men needs to be taught a lesson by those same men, who shouldn’t have anything good happen to them in the first place, is disheartening.

There’s one moment that really sticks out. Her boss threatens to fire her if she doesn’t sign Jamal Berry (an absurd threat, because it’s for the entire company and shouldn’t ride solely on her shoulders). When one of the other agents sneaks behind their backs, signs Jamal, and leaves the company, that is somehow her fault.

But … she can hear men’s thoughts, so why didn’t she know he was planning this? Anyway, her boss then blames her for all this, and she tells him it isn’t on her, to which he responds that he can’t fire her. Ali points out that it’s because she’s a black woman, and he doesn’t deny it but won’t confirm she’s right.

Honestly, Ali should have left. That’s the moment you walk out, you sign Jamal Berry on your own, and you get the same end result of this movie without accepting the notion of the “boys’ club” that she so badly longed to be in.

Beyond all that, Ali’s drive to be part of the boys’ club, to be taken seriously, is familiar but dated. We don’t need them. We can do it ourselves. That’s the message this movie should have had from the beginning but instead threw it in at the end as if Ali hadn’t even really thought about it.

Will points out in the movie that men and women have the same desires, that they just want to share their lives with someone and to be happy in what they are doing. If that’s the case, well, great. But that’s not really what 90% of this movie sold me.

If you want to laugh and be reminded that Max Greenfield is great, go see What Men Want, but honestly, unless you have a woman behind you yelling out, “He got violated,” during your screening, too, you might not enjoy it that much. Taraji P. Henson deserves better.

(image: Paramount Pictures)

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Resident Spider-Man expert, official Leslie Knope, actually Yelena Belova. Wanda Maximoff has never done anything wrong in her life. New York writer with a passion for all things nerdy. Yes, she has a Pedro Pascal podcast.