“A Film and TV Review by Tim Riley
“WHAT MEN WANT” Rated R Flipping the gender in Hollywood remakes is nothing new. Think of the female versions of “Ghostbusters” and “Ocean’s 8,” notable as more recent examples that herald either an enduring trend or a fad of the moment.
Two decades later, one has to ponder the appeal of turning Mel Gibson’s “What Women Want” into a female empowerment statement with Taraji P. Henson playing the tough cookie in “What Men Want.”Playing strong is what Henson does well if you take note of her role of Cookie Lyon in the TV series “Empire.”
Here, as sports agent Ali Davis, she’s equally sharp, fierce, relentless, fearless and unstoppable. The trouble for Ali is that she’s pigeonholed as doing her best work representing female athletes that are Olympic medalists and trophy winners. She’s need to break the glass ceiling in a business dominated by males.
Poised to be made a partner at the sports management firm, Ali anticipates securing the position at a company meeting only to be humiliated by her boss (Brian Bosworth) who gives the promotion to an unqualified male junior executive.
Grabbing the brass ring won’t come easy until she lands a big-time football, baseball or basketball star. Setting her sights on signing top NBA draft prospect Jamal Barry (Shane Paul McGhie), Ali finds his dad Joe “Dolla” Barry (Tracy Morgan) might be her biggest hurdle.
Meanwhile, following a party with her tight-knit girlfriends, Ali has an accident that puts her in the hospital. She wakes up to find that a concussion has rendered her with the ability to hear men’s thoughts.
With only her brow-beaten, nerdy assistant Brandon (Josh Brener) remotely on her side, Ali unlocks the mysteries of the male-dominated business to navigate the corporate minefield.
Meanwhile, a one-night stand with bartender Will (Aldis Hodge) turns into something more when Ali uses the widowed father and his young son to fool Jamal’s father into thinking that she’s in a stable family situation that enhances her ability to handle a superstar client.
“What Men Want” doesn’t move the needle in any big way on the scale of generic romantic comedy, nor does it hold much surprise in how a female dynamo gets the upper hand in the workplace.
Taraji P. Henson, of course, steals the show with her blazing ball of energy that shows she has mastered the ruthless corporate culture on an equal plane with her male peers.