How do you bring a self-help book to the big screen?
In a feat that would cause Adaptation’s Charlie Kaufman pangs of jealousy, director Tim Story takes Steve Harvey’s nonfiction Eat Like A Lady, Think Like A Man and makes a meta-movie not about the best seller itself, but about a bunch of folks who are reading it. (Imagine how much more interesting this tactic might have made The Hunger Games? Instead of chronicling Katniss and company, we’d see the lives of all those ladies you meet on the subway.)
The rather annoyingly handsome Michael Ealy anchors a handful of 20-something guy friends who meet weekly for basketball and beers. Also in the crew are The 40-Year-Old Virgin’s Romany Malco, a scarily slimmed down Jerry Ferrara from Entourage, mama’s boy Terence J, and killer standup Kevin Hart. Bouncing riffs off the token white dude (Gary Owen), these boys fumble their way through some vaguely familiar relationship problems and routine commitment-phobia.
Will Terence J be able to finally settle down with single mom Regina Hall, and how will that interfere with his own mother doing his laundry? Ferrara’s long-term, live-in romance with the gorgeous Gabrielle Union is threatened by her desire to toss out his old beat-up college couch and action figure collection so they can move into an apartment suitable for grown ups, while the womanizing Malco’s latest conquest (Meagan Good) enforces a strict no-sex-for-90-days rule, attempting to weed out exactly his kind of one-night operators. Ealy’s line cook falls into a convoluted set of lies, wooing savvy businesslady Taraji P. Henson by pretending he’s way more successful than he is. Meanwhile, Hart spends entirely too much time on the phone with his ex-wife, trying not to cry.
The one thread holding all these disparate story lines together is Steve Harvey’s best selling book, chapters of which turn into onscreen chapter titles as the Family Feud host submits to a movie-length interview with Oprah-clone Sherri Shepherd. He’s given away the game, allowing ladies behind the curtain into how men think, forcing these overgrown boys into desperate measures.
Such measures include finally taking a bit of adult responsibility for themselves, and where Story’s picture differs from the current crop of dreadful romantic comedies is its respect for women and desire to make the overgrown boy characters worthy of their companionship. For once we’re not watching a workaholic Katherine Heigl-type learn how to put her beau before a career, and instead seeing fully realized, beautifully photographed women attempting to find a few grown-up men in a world that doesn’t offer much. (Unfortunately, Chris Brown bops around the background as a player who can’t ever quite remember his conquests’ names.
No great shakes, but it’s well-made and often very funny.