Tim Story’s adaptation of Steve Harvey’s advice-based look at romantic relationships is a multiple rom-com that, like Garry Marshall’s holiday-titled efforts, interweaves scenarios about different couples. “Think Like a Man” turns out better than Marshall’s duds, but it goes on too long and loses impetus along the way, despite the game efforts of a likable cast.
The guys in the equation are all chums who play basketball together. Dominic (Michael Ealy) is the type Harvey—who appears periodically to offer lessons from his book—calls The Dreamer; he’s working as a waiter-valet parker but pines to own his own restaurant. Zeke (Romany Malco) is The Player, who uses ladies like kleenex because he’s scared of along-term relationship. Michael (Terrence J.) is The Momma’s Boy, a great catch but for his harridan mother’s apron strings. And Jeremy (Jerry Ferrara) is The Non-Committer, who has a live-in girlfriend, Kristen (Gabrielle Union), but still chooses a frat-boy existence and refuses to pop the question. Meanwhile Cedric (Kevin Hart) is in the process of an acrimonious divorce, and so angry that no woman in her right mind will come near him.
The romantic threads, all predicated on the premise that the women the first four guys link up with read Harvey’s book and use it for manipulative purposes—only to have their men read it and take evasive action. Dominic meets Lauren (Taraji P. Henson), an ambitious corporate type who’s looking for a better-established man and pretends to be an up-and-coming restaurateur. Zeke finds Mya (Meagan Good), Lauren’s friend, who elects to refuse his amorous advances and play it cool in order to test his seriousness, which of course leads him to get serious. Michael falls for single mom Candace (Regina Hall), who’s horrified when she finds out how his mother (Jenifer Lewis) controls him. And Kristen decides to take matters into her own hands to force Jerry to grow up and propose. Cedric looks on fuming (while occasionally helping his pals), and their happily-married pal Bennett (Gary Owen) acts as the picked-upon but envied alternative for them all.
Each of the four major romantic threads proceeds along a familiar path; the difference here is that the script jumps back and forth among them, with the women using Harvey’s suggestions to work toward what they want and the men reacting with their counter-measures. Unfortunately none of the four stories offer any surprises, and trying to cram them all into the confines of a single movie simultaneously gives each of them short shrift and gets tediously extended trying to wrap them all up. As a result the picture, directed erratically by Story, wears out its welcome long before the two-hour-plus running-time is over.
Along the way there are pleasant moments, of course; the will-they-or-won’t-they eight are all agreeable performers, with a light touch. Hart gives a comic jolt to the proceedings whenever he shows up to deliver one of his manic riffs; one scene on the basketball court, in which he gets into it with some pro stars doing cameos, is like a stand-up routine brought to life (it continues, of course, into the end credits). And for anyone who misses the sort of material that George Jefferson’s mother used to deliver on the old sitcom, there’s always Lewis, who couldn’t be more bombastic.
Well-made, with cinematography by Larry Blanford that takes advantage of Chris Cornwell’s production design and Charlie Campbell’s art direction as well as the Los Angeles locations, “Think Like a Man” is better than a lot of Hollywood’s rom-coms, but the overstuffed plot and uncertain direction defeat the best efforts of its ingratiating cast.