We don’t know about you, but we’re quite excited to see What Men Want when it arrives in theaters on February 8. Directed by Adam Shankman (Hairspray, The Pacifier) and starring Taraji P. Henson, What Men Want is ready to update 2000’s What Women Want, which starred Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt, in some unique and hilarious ways.
What Men Want follows Ali (Henson), an ambitious sports agent working in a male-dominated office. Passed over for a major promotion but nonetheless determined, Ali tries to figure out how to get ahead while holding her own. Her friends intervene, setting her up for a reading with a mystic, Sister (played by Erykah Badu), who gives her a special tea that, when coupled with an accidental bump on the head, leaves Ali with the ability to hear men’s thoughts. Emboldened by her newly acquired power, Ali tries to work it to her advantage to acquire a new client. Can she actually pull it off without others finding out she can hear what men are really thinking?
It’ll be interesting to see how What Men Want both sticks to and diverts from the original What Women Want set-up and even more interesting, we may already have some clues to help us get a sense of how things will play out. Here’s what we know so far about What Men Want.
Ali Is A New Kind of Lead Character
What Men Want initially takes a hard left turn in centering its story around a black female lead. This, it could be argued, is for the better since putting a black woman at the center of a story about someone trying to make their professional dreams come true brings into focus conversations around female ambition in the workplace and in particular how black women are treated as driven, professional individuals.
Add to this the fact that we know Ali is raised to survive in a man’s world and thus, is probably more equipped to be men at their own game, whether or not she can read men’s minds. As Henson told Screen Rant back in November 2018, Ali was already comfortable dealing with the opposite sex even before getting the power to hear their thoughts: “[S]he was raised by a single father and she was around boxing all of her life, around testosterone all of her life, I think she feels most comfortable with men. Look at her life, it led her right to a career where she’s around men. I think she’s most comfortable with men just because of the way she was raised.”
Basically, Ali can simultaneously hang with the boys while wanting to shake up the boys club at her company. Expect this kind of can-do attitude to land Ali in many amusing scenarios as she tries to land a big client.
A Key Plot Twist Makes it Perfect For 2019
As previously mentioned, there’s something deeply revolutionary about sitting a remake on the shoulders of a black woman. As Shankman acknowledged in a Cinemablend interview from November 2018, flipping to a different gender — so that in the remake, it’s a woman reading the thoughts of men — brings some interesting new issues to the forefront that in turn fundamentally change the story: “When we flipped it to a woman character, no matter how tough I made her character, the world around her was always worse,” revealed Shankman. “So in her circumstances, the problems were really external and his problems [in What Women Want] were more internal.”
Essentially, Ali will likely be dealing with what it means to be a woman in the world in What Men Want, and, rather than her newfound gift being a gift, might be more of a curse at first. Hearing what men are thinking in 2019, a world where the #MeToo movement is very real and very present for a reason, means she’s going to have to figure out new ways to deal with the dudes who get in her way – especially now that she can hear the best and the worst of them.
The Cast Of ‘What Men Want’ Is Different In A Great Way
Let’s be real for a hot sec: What Women Want was extremely white. For better or for worse, when filtered through the lens of a white dude courtesy of lead character, Nick, What Women Want presented a somewhat honest, kinda nuanced depiction of how women feel when they interact with men. But that lack of inclusivity means that to a certain extent, What Women Want is myopic in its discussion of how men look at, interact with and feel about women and vice versa. It was cute and it was funny, but it was one-dimensional.
What Men Want ups the ante by putting a fairly diverse cast on screen. Alongside Henson and Badu, the cast includes Tracy Morgan, Aldis Hodge, Richard Roundtree, Phoebe Robinson, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Max Greenfield, Pete Davidson and Josh Brener, to name a few notables. There’s a decently even spread of men and women and plenty of color in the cast, too. This means that the themes of gender relations, women succeeding in a male-dominated world and even how women access their own confidence and power personally and professionally will take on a new, more truthful context and assessment because we’re watching it happen through the eyes of a black woman in a world where black women are often kept on the outside looking in.
Even when we’re laughing with or at Ali while watching What Men Want, expect this movie to subtly hit you with some possibly uncomfortable but necessary truths about how women are treated in today’s society.
There Will Be A Nod To ‘What Women Want’
In that same Cinemablend interview from 2018, Shankman let slip that there would be a nod to What Women Want. It’s all quite mysterious and there hasn’t been too much written about what that nod would be, so eagle-eyed viewers will have to pay attention to What Men Want for that reference.
And finally, you can totally expect tons of laughs from What Men Want. No, really, expect them. If you don’t believe us, just check out this clip from the movie, which hits theaters on Feb. 8, and then get your tickets here.
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