'Think Like a Man' (PG-13)

Strangely enough, Think Like A Man isn’t the first movie based on a self-help book, but it may be the best. I’m not counting on the upcoming What to Expect When You’re Expecting to top it. You never know, I know, but I am pretty sure that in this case, I know.

Whatever the truth may be, Think Like a Man is better than the last movie of its kind, He’s Just Not That Into You, which also took a book of relationship advice and somehow beat and stretched and stuffed it into the shape of an ensemble romantic comedy. Think Like a Man uses a similar formula — a group of men and women engage in various emotional skirmishes — but it doesn’t dabble in too much sincerity, never takes its silly premise too seriously and is genuinely funny even though you’re pretty sure you’ve heard a lot of these he said/she said jokes before.

Director Tim Story, who put together another fine comedy ensemble in Barbershop, has assembled a good group here, too. There are the guys (Michael Ealy, Jerry Ferrera, Terrence Jenkins, Romany Malco), who play basketball, hang out together and brag and/or moan about the women in their lives. Think Like a Man neatly sticks each into a category — dreamer, non-committer, mama’s boy, player — and then sets about pairing them up with women (Meagan Good, Regina Hall, Taraji P. Henson, Gabrielle Union) whose hopes are quite different.

The women, you see, are tired of disappointment and have realigned their romantic goals after reading Steve Harvey’s Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, which argues that women need to understand how men think in order to ensnare them. (If you’re looking for a 21st century feminist manifesto, you will need to look elsewhere.) Thus the good-time girl disappointed by yet another one night stand (Good) vows to stick to Harvey’s 90-days-without-sex rule — and meets the player (Malco), who is more of a maybe-90-seconds-without-sex rule kind of guy. The female half of the longtime couple (Union) starts redecorating the home that looks like a frat house; the male half (Ferrera) screams for his missing anime posters. The single mom (Hall) gets mixed up with the mama’s boy (Jenkins), and the successful businesswoman (Henson) who wants an equally successful guy falls for the prep cook who’s broke but has eyes to die for (Ealy). Orbiting them all like an insane comet is their angry divorced pal (the hilarious Kevin Hart), who shrieks about his ex so much you just know there’s got to be more to the story than he’s letting on.

Naturally, the guys — whose banter is the best thing about the movie — find out about the book, curse Harvey as a traitor to his gender and try to turn the tables — which inevitably ends badly. But fear not. Think Like A Man isn’t about to leave you sad or unfulfilled. It’s all about making everybody happy. If that’s not grounds for a good relationship, then I don’t know what is.

Cast: Kevin Hart, Michael Ealy, Jerry Ferrara, Meagan Good, Taraji P. Henson, Regina Hill, Terrence Jenkins, Romany Malco, Gabrielle Union.

Director: Tim Story.

Screenwriters: Keith Merryman, David A. Newman. Based on the book “Act Like A Lady, Think Like a Man” by Steve Harvey.

Producer: William Packer.

A Screen Gems release. Running time: 120 minutes. Sexual humor, some crude language, brief drug use. Opens Friday April 20 at area theaters.


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