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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that What Men Want -- a gender-flipped take on the 2000 Mel Gibson comedy What Women Want -- is a fairly raunchy comedy about a woman (Taraji P. Henson) who suddenly gains the ability to hear men's thoughts. Characters drink (sometimes too much), and an unwitting woman is served psychedelic "tea" that has marijuana and ecstasy in it (played for laughs). Another character sells marijuana illegally, and a doctor uses cocaine at work (he gets clean by the movie's end); a background character smokes a cigar. While there's no graphic nudity -- characters are covered by sheets or wearing underwear -- sex scenes include eyebrow-raising movements and noises, and a woman chokes, pushes, and slaps a man during sex while in pursuit of a climax (also played for laughs). It's suggested that characters have grown positively when they agree to "share" sexual pleasure with each other. In one scene, a woman forcefully kisses a (willing) man; it ends with him wearing black BDSM gear on a swing. Language is also salty and frequent; expect to hear "f--k," "s--t," and more. Women, including a main character in her late 40s, take strong, central roles and are unashamed about being powerful and sexual. Parents and children have supportive relationships, and there are themes of communication and empathy.
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Sex: At a wedding. There is discussion about a man s... Continue reading
What's the story?
At the sports agency she works at, Ali Davis (Taraji P. Henson) is surrounded by male colleagues all day long -- yet a crushing career blow has convinced her that she doesn't understand WHAT MEN WANT. But when a bonk on the head and a session with a mysterious, psychedelic tea-bearing psychic named Sister (a game and wild-eyed Erykah Badu) coincide, Ali suddenly gains the ability to hear men's private thoughts. Now that she knows exactly what the men in her life are thinking, she hopes to use her new powers to sign hot new NBA draft pick Jamal Barry (Shane Paul McGhie), despite meddling from his temperamental father, Joe (Tracy Morgan), and secure the partnership that's rightfully hers.
Is it any good?
Viewers will know right away where this formulaic comedy is headed, but that doesn't mean there aren't pleasures to be found along the way. Chief among them: Henson knows her way around a punchline, and it's a kick to see her cast in a comedic role. Dressed in her trademark no-nonsense jackets and suits, her Ali is enviously confident in the man's world of the upscale Atlanta sports agency she works for -- that is, until she's passed over for a partnership and told by her just-shy-of-contemptuous boss that she doesn't "connect well with men" and should "stay in her own lane." Anyone who's ever seen a sisters-are-doing-it-for-themselves female revenge fantasy knows what's coming next: comeuppance for those who done her wrong -- and, after some forgivable missteps, ultimate triumph.
The setup is, of course, catnip for the type of viewer this movie clearly hopes to attract: girlfriend groups who will cheer as Ali rises to the top, thanks to her trademark mix of savvy and pluck, and the (thankfully temporary) powers she gains from Sister. What Men Want hits all the beats you expect: First, Ali has to learn how to balance power and sensitivity at work, then, to show she sincerely cares about her (clumsily characterized) girlfriend group and (shoehorned-in) love interest, Will (Aldis Hodge). The emotional moments aren't earned, but they pass by quickly enough that viewers can ignore them in favor of this movie's real, irritatingly rare treat: watching a smart, confident woman in her 40s get what's coming to her, in all the best ways. As an icon that fed-up women can connect to, Henson is perfect, even if this particular movie isn't.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how drinking, drug use, and other over-the-top behavior are depicted in What Men Want. Is the film glamorizing any of this? Do characters face realistic consequences for their actions? Why does that matter?
- In theaters: February 8, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: May 7, 2019
- Cast: Taraji P. Henson, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Brian Bosworth
- Director: Adam Shankman
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Character strengths: Communication, Empathy
- Run time: 117 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language and sexual content throughout, and some drug material
- Last updated: July 16, 2020
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