Translating Steve Harvey’s bestseller “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man” into a four-pronged romantic comedy, Tim Story’s breezy if predictable film overstays its welcome. While the result deserves some credit for finding a creative way to bring the book to life, the overlapping storylines simply aren’t compelling enough, despite the best efforts of a game and attractive cast. Mostly, “Think Like a Man” plays like shrewd promotion for the book, but the best advice would be to skip the former and read the latter. Pic falls somewhere between raucousness and date-night schmaltz, and returns should be similarly mixed.
Whatever the film’s assets, more than two hours is a lot to ask of an audience with this sort of flimsy construct, even with multiple stories designed to convey various aspects of Harvey’s guide to helping women understand men on the subject of relationships. Harvey, the multifaceted comic, appears as a talkshow guest plugging the book (Sherri Shepherd has a cameo as the daytime host), then turns up throughout directly addressing the camera.
The conceit is that the book becomes such a sensation that women begin rushing to absorb its secrets and crack the male code. The primary twist, such as it is, involves their practicing Harvey’s teachings to achieve their goals, only to have the men eventually buy the book as well and realize they’re being manipulated.
Regarding those males, several varieties Harvey identifies are conveniently represented by one group of friends who play basketball together several times each week. They include the mama’s boy (Terrence J), who becomes involved with single mom Candace (Regina Hall); the dreamer (Michael Ealy), who stumbles into a liaison with Lauren (Taraji P. Henson), a successful businesswoman who wants a man equally well situated; the non-committer (“Entourage’s” slimmed-down Jerry Ferrara), whose Peter Pan routine is beginning to wear on his longtime girlfriend (Gabrielle Union); and the ladies man (“Weeds'” Romany Malco), who is forced to actually try wooing Mya (Meagan Good), who, after one too many one-night stands, follows Harvey’s maxim about withholding sex in order to find true love.
Finally, there’s Cedric (comedian Kevin Hart), the divorced guy who keeps regaling the group with stories about his ex-wife, frequents strip clubs and functions as narrator, while providing a steady infusion of manic energy seemingly designed to prevent the sappier aspects from weighing down the comedy.
Each of the intersecting plots could be (and indeed, has been) stretched into a romantic comedy all its own. Yet if blending them together offers a way of hedging bets and maximizing opportunities for laughs, it also becomes somewhat numbing, especially in the later stages when Story and writers Keith Merryman and David A. Newman have to race around attempting to neatly tie up all their plot threads.
Best known for “Barbershop” before his sojourn into the spandex-clad world of “Fantastic Four,” Story does deliver some funny moments, and incorporates enough cameos (including NBA players, Chris Brown and radio/TV host Wendy Williams) to leave few marketing stones unturned.
That said, some scenes drag on interminably, particularly when the women or guys are alone discussing dating strategies. One sequence in which the warring factions separately recount a date brings to mind the “Summer Lovin’?” number from “Grease,” only with less music and more drawn out. There’s also something rather quaint, frankly, about the premise of a dating-advice book being so influential, as if there were a dearth of them, or Oprah’s Book Club were still in its heyday.
Pic does make good use of its Los Angeles environs and an expansive soundtrack, especially in the more romantic moments. Kudos, too, to the glamorous way the movie adorns its leading ladies. Ultimately, though, “Think Like a Man” dilutes its strengths — perhaps because nobody bothered to think like an editor.