Remakes rarely top originals. Surprisingly enough, “What Men Want” (**** OUT OF ****) surpasses “What Women Want” (2000).  The above-average Mel Gibson romantic, comic fantasy qualified as entertaining, but it was far from memorable.  Meanwhile, “Rock of Ages” director Adam Shankman, “Drumline” scenarist Tina Gordon, and “Good Old-Fashioned Orgy” scribes Peter Hyck and Alex Gregory have performed miracles with their gender-flipped remake. Taraji P. Henson appropriates the role that Gibson created in the original which coined over $374 million at the box office. “What Women Want” doesn’t take place at an advertising agency, but rather at a sports talent company.

Comparably, the remake is faster and funnier, with a more satisfying finale that neatly ties up all its plotlines.  You’d never know that this movie clocks in just shy of two-hours in length since it sizzles with ingenious spontaneity.  Shankman & company make sure the complex plot doesn’t slow down, after our heroine disgraces herself when her own selfish designs backfire.  Naturally, we’re talking about a super-supreme chick flick, with modest quantities of beefcake and cheese cake to enliven the action.  Indeed, “What Men Want” contains simulated sex scenes, but those scenes are played for laughs.  Consequently, “What Men Want” received an R-rating, while “What Women Want” embraced a PG-13 rating.

Ali Davis (Taraji P. Henson of “Acrimony”) is a competitive, energetic, motivated sports agent at Summit Worldwide Management in Atlanta, Georgia.  When we meet her, Ali is still clambering up the corporate ladder in what she calls ‘a boy’s club.’ Indeed, Ali is the only dame in this glass-ceilinged, male-dominated company. For a single African-American female, ascension at SWM is complicated by various obstacles which come with her femininity.  Accompanied by her fastidious, but loyal gay male assistant, Brandon Wallace (Josh Brener of “The Belko Experiment”), who caters to her outlandish diva personality, our heroine isn’t narrow-minded but deceptively ambitious. Her male colleagues behave like louts, and she can show her loutish side, too.

Ali has managed to assemble her own roster of sports clients, primarily females, but she realizes now that she must attract male clients.  Despite all her hard-earned success, Ali desperately wants a promotion to ‘partner.’  Davis’ cynical boss Nick Ivers (Brian Bosworth of “Three Kings”) points out that she has not recruited any major male sports prospects for the NFL, MLB, or the NBA. He criticizes Ali because she lacks the ability to connect with men, and he urges her to stay with female clients rather than make inroads on prospective male clients.

A golden opportunity arises when top NBA prospect, Jamal Berry (newcomer Shane Paul McGhie), a guard from Georgia, visits SWM.  Unfortunately, he brings along with him parental baggage.  Jamal’s well-meaning father, Joe ‘Dolla’ Barry (Tracy Morgan of “Cop Out”), hovers like a helicopter parent.  Refusing to let anybody exploit his son, Joe micro-manages Jamal, often to his son’s chagrin.  Meantime, Ali’s girlfriends, Ciarra (Phoebe Robinson), Olivia (Wendi McLendon-Covey), and Mari (Tamala Jones), try to improve her ability to connect with men.  They invite a hare-brained psychic, Sister (Erykah Badu of “The Cider House Rules”), who tells fortunes and sells clandestine pot out of a beauty salon, to their bachelorette party.

Sister concocts a mysterious potion for Ali to guzzle that intoxicates our heroine to the extent that she knocks herself unconscious accidentally while gyrating later on a nightclub dance floor.  Awakening in a hospital emergency ward, Ali can hear the inner most thoughts of her attending physician, who is worried about his own substance abuse woes.  Afterward, Ali wields her new-found gift to read men’s thoughts at SWM so she can land Jamal.  Unfortunately, she lacks Joe’s support.  As a family man, Joe insists that Jamal’s future sports agent must espouse family values.

Single girl Ali takes advantage of a one-night stand with a debonair bartender, Will (Aldis Hodge of “Straight Outta Compton”), who happens to be a single-parent with an adorable five-year old son, Ben (newcomer Auston Jon Moore), that loves “Black Panther.” Initially, unsuspecting Will has no clue that Ali is deploying Ben and he as bargaining chips to convince Joe and Jamal to sign with her.  Ali uses them as her fake family so Joe will approve of her lifestyle. Nick knows exactly what Ali is doing, but he doesn’t interfere with her scheme. Ultimately, Ali doesn’t stand a chance.

One of SWM’s unscrupulous partners has quit the company and won Joe and Jamal over with a lucrative deal to play basketball in China.  No sooner has this deal been announced than Jamal has second thoughts.  He has always dreamed of sinking hoops for the Atlanta Hawks. Ali convinces him to live his dream.  By this time, however, our heroine has come to regret her mind reading antics.  Her girlfriends shun her after she exposes two of their significant others for having extramarital affairs.  Like Spider-man, Ali realizes that with great power– her ability to read men’s minds–that she must exercise greater responsibility.

The comic pace slackens a little during the fourth quarter when our heroine reevaluates her strategy and sets out to regain not only Will and Ben but also her girlfriends for a happily ever after ending.  Taraji P. Henson gives a deliriously charismatic performance as she goes from being a villain to a heroine.  Don’t exit the theater as the end credits roll or you’ll miss some hilarious bits with Erykah Badu’s outlandish character Sister reading fortunes and selling illegal substances.

Actually, “What Men Want” reminded me of the Tom Cruise comedy “Jerry Maguire,” except Jerry’s agency fired him, and then he made an epic comeback.  Comparatively, Henson sits at the big table, but she isn’t a partner.  An interesting subplot neither Shankman nor his scenarists develop is the mystery about which partner vetoed Ali’s promotion.  Bedroom scenes abound, but the lusty lovers keep themselves adequately clad.  Some of the shenanigans in “What Men Want” may offend straight, traditional sensibilities, but this giddy comic fantasy should keep you laughing throughout its 117 minutes. To Read More of Planet Weekly’s Movie Reviews Click this Link.

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