After months of discussion and media hype, “Think Like a Man,” a highly entertaining romantic comedy inspired by Steve Harvey’s New York Times best-selling book “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man,” opens today in theaters nationwide.
Featuring a strong ensemble cast, “Think Like a Man” is directed by Tim Story of “Barbershop” fame, and follows four beautiful and successful women, all looking for love. There’s Kristen (Gabrielle Union), who’s in a longtime relationship that appears to be going nowhere; Candace (Regina Hall), a devoted single mother who is looking for a good, stable man; Lauren (Taraji P. Henson), a successful “Type A” businesswoman who is actively seeking a man who is “on her level,” and the sexy Mya (Meagan Good) who has dated a string of opportunistic losers — the latest being the silly and immature Alex (Chris Brown).
The ladies are dealing with the usual suspects when it comes to the men in their lives - Zeke, the smooth playboy (Romany Malco), Michael (Terrence J), the hopeless “Mama’s Boy,” the complacent, commitment-phobic Jeremy (Jerry Ferrara) and Dominic (Michael Ealy), the hardworking guy with limitless potential, who often gets overlooked because that potential has yet to be realized. Despite the women’s angst, this band of merry men thinks that life is great — except for their pint-sized pal Cedric (Kevin Hart), who is going through a messy divorce, and never lets any of them forget it.
Just as their frustration becomes unbearable, the ladies see Steve Harvey on TV discussing his new book, “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man,” and are instantly intrigued. They race to buy copies of Harvey’s “self-help” book, and immediately put his plan into action. His advice works like a charm until the guys discover that they are being “played,” and that it was another man who sold them out.
The clever and engaging screenplay was written by Keith Merryman and David A. Newman, although that appears to mean very little to Philly’s outrageous Kevin Hart, who will do or say just about anything, forcing his cast mates to deal with the fallout. Fortunately, he was working with a group of professionals who rather enjoyed the challenge of managing an out-of-control scene stealer who would improvise during his scenes, talk non-stop, dissolve into tears without warning and physically threaten folks who were almost two feet taller and about 100 pounds heavier than he.
For me, and apparently for the rest of the ladies in the house, the most captivating couple was Lauren and Dominic, the controlling over-achiever and the struggling dreamer who has yet to arrive. Versatile Academy Award nominee Taraji P. Henson sizzles as Lauren, who drives the best cars, drinks the best champagne and is waiting for a man who can top her impressive six-figure income to show up.
The cerebral and sensuous Michael Ealy does a slow burn as Dominic, a sincere, ambitious guy who parks cars and works as a waiter while pursuing his dream of becoming a professional chef. One day while parking an expensive car for a customer, he encounters Lauren, and against his better judgment (along with his friends’ bad advice), allows her to believe that it is his. A relationship develops and the sparks fly until Lauren discovers that it’s all based on a lie. Can she love a man based on his potential, or will she find it impossible to “lower” her standards?
Tim Story does a brilliant job of directing this superb ensemble which includes sassy veteran Jenifer Lewis as Michael’s overbearing mother, and Steve Harvey appears just enough for the audience to associate him with his book. There are countless cameo appearances in the film, and you will have a great time pointing them out, particularly when you finally get to meet Cedric’s estranged wife.
Featuring an engaging story, a beautiful, talented cast, and Kevin Hart’s hilarious hi-jinks, “Think Like a Man” was definitely worth the wait, and for those who still have not seen enough of Taraji Henson at the conclusion of the movie, she is featured in all her natural glory in “Allure” magazine’s “Look Better Naked” photo spread hitting newsstands April 24. (Rated PG-13)
Celebrity Sound Bytes: Michael Ealy, on why good guys are often overlooked: “Guys like Dominic get overlooked because it starts when you’re young — high school. I have this theory that if young girls looked at the 3.8, 4.0 GPA instead of athletes ... when I was growing up in Maryland/D.C., it was drug dealers ... they had the cash, they had the clothes, the swagger, but it’s the guy who was getting the 4.0 who’s running American Express right now. That’s the difference. It’s all about everybody having to evolve. Women have to start out as girls, and they have this fascination with what’s flashy. The same thing with guys. At the end of the day, I think women overlook guys like Dominic because their priorities are not in the right place.”
Steve Harvey: “Every man can change, and every man eventually will change, but there is only one woman that we will change for.”
Charles S. Dutton is the first to admit that the recently released “The Obama Effect” is a pro-Obama motion picture. Yet the former star of “Roc” insisted that the 90-minute comedy/drama is not a political film. For the co-producer, director, screenwriter and lead actor in the flick that opened at AMC theatres last Friday, this was his way of capturing history in a unique context.
“The Obama Effect” is the story of insurance salesman John Thomas, played by Dutton. He becomes passionate about the 2008 Obama campaign after a health scare. The cast includes Katt Williams, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Meagan Good and Glynn Turman as well as boxer Zab Judah and other new faces to the silver screen.
The film, produced by entertainment executive Barry Hankerson of Blackground Records, is now in its first run. It opened in select cities, preceded by premiere showings. Locally, the film opened to a full and enthusiastic house at Lowe’s AMC Theatre in Cherry Hill, N.J., on July 11.
“This chronicles one of the most important moments in history, when this country elected its first Black president,” said Dutton, who is making his directorial debut. “It’s a satirical look at the 2008 election. This is about a man who becomes obsessed with the Obama election. This captures a moment in time when many people never thought they would see in their lifetime.
“For him this is a kind of non-negotiable madness. He puts this election before his family, friends and job. Then there’s his alter ego, and he really thinks he is talking to Obama. There’s also the divisiveness and polarizing that took place in 2008 (reflected) right in his own community,” said Dutton.
The film took more than three years in the making. It began in January 2009 on the heels of the presidential inauguration with what Dutton called a “triple duty” operation. First, he and Hankerson came together with the idea to make an independent film about the 2008 presidential race from a pro-Obama perspective.
Then, they created a character who “had tunnel vision” on his conviction that President Obama was the only candidate who should win the election. Finally, there was much rewriting and retaking scenes throughout 2009 and 2010 until the current version emerged during 2011 and received its final edits this year.
“The original cut was too tragic,” said Dutton. “It was like a page out of King Lear. So, we had to go back and make it lighter and more fun. There are serious moments but with the addition of Katt Williams as the super-rich nephew by marriage and a Black Republican, that made it more satirical.”
Yet just because the movie has many jovial moments, doesn’t mean there is no conflict or serious scenes. There is. For example, the main character is at odds with his Latino next-door neighbors who he feels should make an immediate commitment to support Obama.
At the same time, the sons of the two families compete in a boxing match. Additionally, there is a clandestine affair between another Latino neighbors’ son and the protagonist’s daughter. “This movie clearly multi-layered,” said Dutton.
Furthermore, Thomas tells his fellow organizers that, “Anyone involved in the Obama campaign is going to be alright.” Ironically, Dutton himself did not get thumbs up from the official Obama campaign camp. This was a result of the producers’ effort to keep the independent film truly independent, according to Dutton. That is why rather than scout major investors, he and Hankerson opted to finance the venture themselves.
“This is unabashedly a pro-Obama film but we didn’t want Chicago, the White House or anyone else censuring the script and looking over our shoulder,” said Dutton. “I think this is a classy movie that you could bring your family or church group to see. We tried to keep capture the euphoria of 2008 while mending fences in a way that is uplifting. I think the story is still electrifying in a new way now that it’s 2012.
“Some of the (sentiments) expressed back in 2008 reflect the vehement resistance we see in Congress and from the tea party. We started filming before (some) Americans took off their sheets or rolled by the hoods. So, there’s much relevance in a 2008 story speaking to this upcoming election,” said Dutton.
Dutton anticipates that the First Family will request a screening during its early run. He admitted that he hopes that he can give the Obamas their own edited version of the film. There are choice phrases he would like to delete so as not to offend President Obama, the first lady or their daughters, he said. Other than that, he feels that the Obamas would appreciate that its release is well-timed and tastefully done.
Now, audiences across the country can also see the initial AMC theaters exclusive run and make their own assessment. Besides Philadelphia and Cherry Hill, the select market cities include Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta, New Orleans, Dallas and Houston.
Dutton said his requests for reviews to be broadcast on stations like Fox News, or for an interview with Bill O’Reilly about “The Obama Effect,” were ignored. Yet Dutton is taking that in stride.
“I am not naïve,because I understand that half the country may not be interested in seeing this movie, but there’s the other half who will,” said Dutton.
These days Dutton just is eager for the nationwide and possibly worldwide distribution of “The Obama Effect” in October. However, he’s not resting on those potential laurels either. He is already preparing to film his next movie in Philadelphia. This is about Stevie Gordon, a fictitious music mogul who is stuck in the 20th century still saying statements like “Let’s go and make the record.”
This is slated for a Memorial Day release.