Relaxed yet lively, the byplay in "Think Like a Man" has some of the spark of director Tim Story's "Barbershop" a decade ago. The movie may be the very definition of contrivance, coming as it does from the blithely sexist relationship guide "Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man" co-written by radio host and comedian Steve Harvey. Considering its source, though, one of the more unpromising comedies of the year has turned out to be pretty funny.
Few bestsellers ever got that way underestimating the American public's taste for generalities about the gender wars. Harvey's 2009 "how to" divides humans into two camps: those with "the cookie" (women) and the cookie monsters (men). Harvey and co-writer Denene Millner categorize the ones with the cookies as either "sports fish" or those deserving of the label of "keeper," someone who "understands her power and wields it like a samurai sword."
"A woman's love," writes Harvey, "is emotional, nurturing, heartfelt -- sweet and kind and all-encompassing." But as he later writes, "Please understand: the way we men connect is by having sex. Period." How did director Story and screenwriters Keith Merryman and David A. Newman ("Friends With Benefits") squeeze an enjoyable film out of this? By retaining Harvey's archetypes but getting creative about humanizing the people wearing the labels. The guys consist of the Player (Romany Malco), the Mama's Boy (Terrence J), the Dreamer (Michael Ealy), the Non-Committer (Jerry Ferrara), the Happily Married Guy (Gary Owen) and the Happily Divorced Guy (Kevin Hart). Their ladies, former, current and future, break down into equally slick headlines. Meagan Good is the 90-Day Rule Girl, tired of casual sex and eager to enforce the book's 90-Day rule (no cookies for three months). And so on.