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'Think Like a Man' review: Funny attacks in a frustratingly reductive battle of the sexes

**1/2 (out of four)

After seeing these stereotypes on screen approximately 100 billion times, everyone should be tired of movies that position men as immature, commitment-phobic slackers who need to shape up and women as uptight, long-term planners exasperated with the deception of the opposite sex. Modern relationship insight? No, that’s a weak stand-up routine from 25 years ago.

Extrapolated from Steve Harvey’s book, “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man: What Men Really Think About Love, Relationships, Intimacy and Commitment,” this intermittently funny comedy treats Harvey’s book like a fountain of wisdom, so much so that characters frequently begin sentences with, “Steve says.”

The women, including Meagan Good, Taraji P. Henson, Gabrielle Union and Regina Hall, use it as a guide to understanding their guys. The men, including Romany Malco, Michael Ealy, Terrence J and Jerry Ferrara, seek to use this leaked info against the girls.

Those are a few of many discomforting elements of “Think Like a Man.” Male/female relationships unfold as a constant power struggle, and the guys instinctively choose lying over truth every time. If your girlfriend wants you to apply for that job, either do it or don’t do it. Watching someone lie about that and waiting until he gets caught slows down the two-hour ensemble piece that runs at least 20 minutes too long.

As the divorced guy looking to celebrate his freedom, Kevin Hart scores some of the film’s biggest laughs, in addition to a few hysterical digs at the broad comedy/sentimentality formula of Tyler Perry’s films. Even if “Think Like a Man” undergoes a similarly rocky transition between homophobic jokes and lines like “This bitch is crazy” before arriving at the honest point that, when the macho bravado falls away, these guys admit that they do what they do for their women because they want to, not because they have to.

Too often, though, the movie’s peddling generalized gender roles and racial behavior as universal fact, in the white-guys-are-dorky-and-powerful-women-are-too-strong-and-intimidating department. The film’s one aspect no one will disagree with, however, comes from the casting of Chris Brown as a sleazy, insincere dude who women should avoid at all costs. If he thinks that’s having fun with his persona, the joke’s on him.

Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 7:30 a.m. on WCIU, the U

mpais@tribune.com. @mattpais

 

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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