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'Think Like a Man' is funny, thoughtful

Published: Friday, April 20, 2012

Updated: Friday, April 20, 2012 14:04

Think Like a Man

Starring Taraji P. Henson and Kevin Hart

Directed by Tim Story

Rated PG-13

Opens Friday

Grade: B

A humorous self-help relationship book becomes an amusing and often biting take on the war between the sexes with “Think Like a Man,” based on comic polymath Steve Harvey’s “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man.”

Funny people in funny situations deliver funny lines with, thanks to director Tim (“Barbershop”) Story, zippy timing in this somewhat overlong but still hilarious romp through the world of “Players,” “Mama’s Boys” and “90-Day-Rule Girls.”

The script, by the guys who gave us the equally smart and sassy “Friends With Benefits,” follows four women with man problems and four guys who are the “types” creating those problems. It lets the women (Gabrielle Union, Taraji P. Henson, Regina Hall and Meagan Good) discover Harvey’s best seller and start putting its tips to use. Mainly, “control the cookies” — as in, don’t be quick to jump in the sack and grant the man access to “the cookie jar.”

Mya (Good) tries to get “the Player” (Romany Malco) to be patient and respect her. Kristen (Union) tries to make her beau since college, a toy-and-movie poster-collecting fanboy “Non-commiter” (Jerry Ferrara), grow up and propose. “The Dreamer” (Michael Ealy), a would-be chef, has to hide his income and employment status from “the Woman Who is Her Own Man,” high-powered businesswoman Lauren (Henson). Single mom Candace (Hall) tries to figure out if “Mama’s boy” Mike (Terrence J) can be pried from his mother’s (Jenifer Lewis, of course) clutches.

And here’s Steve Harvey, seen on a TV interview in one scene and at other times speaking directly to the camera, laying out the blunt advice.

“Don’t hate the player. Change the game.”

“Men respect women who have standards.”

And “don’t be a ‘chirp chirp’ girl.” (Expect the man to do more than merely “chirp chirp” his car locks. Make him open the door for you.)

Biting banter rules the day with this ensemble, with Keith Merryman and David A. Newman peppering the script with Steve Harveyisms and hilarious cracks about everything from “Star Trek” and Oprah to that “traitor” to men, Harvey.

This multi-racial blend of talent in front of and behind the camera — Ferrara (TV’s “Entourage”) and Gary Owen are the white guys in this gang of friends — makes for some explosively funny post-racial America riffs on race, many of them delivered by Cedric (Kevin Hart), the about-to-divorce member of the group. Cracks about “white boy credit scores” and Tyler Perry’s “For Colored Girls” ricochet off the walls, with the black and white friends pushing each other’s racial buttons in the way only close friends can.

“You’re not even white,” Jeremy (Ferrara) blurts out at the “other” white guy, the pale, redheaded and happily married Bennett (Owen). “You’re CLEAR.”

For all the laughs, Harvey’s thesis — that women have to expect more from the arrested-development crowd that make up “the men of this generation” — rings true. So do his takes on the gender-bending nature of modern relationships — women settling on careers and moving up the ladder, men clinging to childhood longer thanks to a culture that rewards that.

The “gay” jokes don’t really land, and as funny as Hart is, his character is the least realistic in the mix and seems superfluous. He also narrates “the game.”

But mark “Think Like a Man” down as a rare winner in a genre Hollywood has found most difficult to master in recent years: romantic comedies that are both comic and romantic.

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