If you stick around long enough, you find yourself crafting sentences you never dreamed you’d write.
Here’s one: “Brian Bosworth gives a fine performance.”
It’s true: the onetime flamboyant Seahawks washout is quite good in “What Men Want,” playing the boss of a sports agency. The Boz has maintained a fitful career in B-movie action fare, but in his first really legit role he’s convincing and actually kind of fun.
If only “What Men Want” — a gender-reversal of “What Women Want,” the 2000 Mel Gibson hit — had more surprises like this. In this take on the material, type-A sports agent Ali Davis (Taraji P. Henson) suddenly acquires the ability to hear men’s thoughts.
Panic ensues, but Ali realizes that her mind-reading gift might be an advantage in her testosterone-fueled office. She’s regularly passed over for a coveted partnership because she’s a woman; now she’s got an edge.
Her biggest goal is to sign a hotshot prospect (Shane Paul McGhie) about to enter the NBA draft, which means impressing his goofball dad (Tracy Morgan). Meanwhile, Ali meets a kind bartender (Aldis Hodge) and exploits him to her professional advantage.
Will Ali learn valuable life lessons from her supernatural experience? I think you know the answer to that.
A more pressing question is whether the film offers enough diversion along the way. Veering from heartwarming sentiment to raunchy sex jokes (who thought an R rating was a good idea here?), “What Men Want” has so many characters and so many plot threads it exhausts itself.
Worse, Henson and director Adam Shankman (“Rock of Ages”) have decided that Ali’s mode should be more Jim Carrey than Mel Gibson. Henson (coming off of hot streak that includes “Hidden Figures” and the TV show “Empire”) is always a capable actress, but she’s so frantic here the film never seems to calm down.
Along with the Boz (and a parade of real-life sports stars playing themselves), there are some bright supporting turns. Erykah Badu gets some fun witchiness going as the fortune teller who causes Ali’s problems, Richard Roundtree (yes, the original “Shaft”) is likable as Ali’s boxer father, and Josh Brener nails the stock role of Ali’s gay assistant.
Of course, any time you have Tracy Morgan wandering around spouting non sequiturs, there’s usually a few laughs to be had. Does anybody actually write dialogue for him, or does he just show up and free-associate?
The good moments in “What Men Want” tend to be lost in the noise. This kind of comedy should look effortless, but everybody here is working very, very hard.
“What Men Want” (2½ stars)
A gender-reversal of the Mel Gibson hit “What Men Want,” this one casts Taraji P. Henson as a sports agent who can suddenly read men’s minds. Some funny moments along the way, but there are so many plot strands going on that the movie exhausts itself, and the usually reliable Henson goes way over the top. With Tracy Morgan.
Rating: R, for language, subject matter
Showing: Alderwood, Alderwood Mall, Cinebarre Mountlake Terrace, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Meridian, Pacific Place, Seattle 10, Thornton Place, Woodinville, Cascade Mall