By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs
Audiences love Taraji P. Henson
for her tough-as-nails portrayal of Cookie Lyon in the hit TV drama “Empire.”
Now, Henson reveals her comedic side in the new movie, “What Men Want”
from director Adam Shankman (“Hairspray” and TV’s “Being Mary Jane”). And there’s a lot to love about it too.
“What Men Want” is a loose remake of the 2000 Nancy Meyers rom-com, “What Women Want” which starred Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt. That movie was rated PG-13. This one is rated R which means Henson and the rest of the cast led by Aldis Hodge, Tracy Morgan and singer Erykah Badu, get to cut loose. I mean, really loose.
Henson plays a rising Atlanta based sports agent named Ali Davis. Her assistant, Brandon (Josh Brener, TV’s “Ducktales”) is as loyal as they come and has her back.
She’s trying to climb the corporate ladder in a male dominated profession, but her boss Nick Ivers (a perfectly cast Brian Bosworth, “The Reliant”) and a few other co-workers, notably Eddie (Chris Witaske, TV’s “Fresh Off The Boat”) and Kevin (Max Greenfield, TV’s “The Neighborhood”), want to box Ali out of meetings and prevent her from landing the big clients.
The one rising NBA star that Ali would love to snag is Jamal Barry (Shane Paul McGhie, TV’s “Sacred Lies”).
That will require a lot, especially since Jamal’s father, Joe “Dolla” Barry, (the always hilarious Tracy Morgan, TV’s “The Last O.G.), is so stubborn and overprotective of his son. Plus, It’s all about the “dollars” for him, hence the middle name.
In addition, Joe believes that Ali doesn’t have the skills like the guys do to lock down all those big endorsement deals that are sure to come Jamal’s way. Plus, she’s single and he views that negatively.
While Ali gets much of her toughness and determination from her supportive father Skip (the legendary Richard Roundtree, upcoming “Shaft” remake (again) and TV’s “Being Mary Jane”), she’s worried, but still determined to shatter that glass ceiling.
Ali’s fate suddenly changes when she drinks some potent tea at a party that’s given to her by a batty, psychic played by the hilarious and scene-stealing Erykah Badu. Then Ali bumps her head in a freak accident there. Not only does it leave her dazed, but now she has the uncanny ability to hear men’s innermost thoughts.
Now that’s a game-changer for sure. Can you imagine having that talent at your disposal when you’re dating a guy or trying to negotiate something? Talk about female empowerment.
Initially, Ali doesn’t see this as a blessing. She’s annoyed by all the chattering in her head. However, her friends sure do. Olivia (a hilarious Wendy McLendon-Covey, TV’s “The Goldbergs) is the born-again Christian who before she started following the Lord says she “followed 2 Live Crew on tour.” Mari (Tamala Jones, TV’s “American Nightmares”) and Ciarra (Phoebe Robinson, “Portlandia”) can’t imagine what it would be like to get inside men’s heads.
Sister, the psychic (Badu ), convinces Ali to use her newfound powers to outsmart her haughty co-workers.
And does she ever.
Not only that, Ali finally knows just how her super, handsome and hunky neighbor (Kellan Lutz, “The Legend of Hercules”) really feels about her. His name isn’t Captain F--ktastic for nothing.
Once Ali has the inside track on the boys club at work, she makes some power moves to give her the upper hand. She even uses her sexy, new boyfriend Will (a terrific Aldis Hodge, “Straight Outta Compton” and TV’s Underground”) and his adorable five-year-old son Ben (Auston Jon Moore, “The Quad) to her advantage.
Screenwriters Tina Gordon ( “Drumline” and upcoming movie, “Little”), Alex Gregory (TV’s “Veep”) Jas Waters (TV’s “This is Us”) and Peter Huyck (TV’s “Veep”) pile on the hilarity in “What Men Want” and Henson--who co-executive produced the film--just nails every minute of it.
Be sure to catch my N2Entertainment.net movie talk segment on the Kitty O'Neal Show Fridays now at 6:20 p.m. on radio station KFBK 1530 AM and 93.1 FM.
Take A Look At This Trailer For "WHAT MEN WANT"
Lana K. Wilson-Combs is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics’ Association (BFCA), The Black Film Critics Circle (BFCC), The Alliance Of Women Film Journalists (AWFJ) and a Nominating Committee Voting Member for the NAACP Image Awards.