First Impressions: Think Like A Man vs. The 5 Year Engagement

Since I saw Think Like A Man and The Five Year Engagement back to back – and since both have Kevin Hart in the cast, underlying motifs about baked goods, and aspiring chefs who open up a food truck in the midst of heartbreak – I decided that smushing the two into one review would be appropriate.

First up…

Think Like A Man (2012)
Chick Flick Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ (4/5)
Film Rating: ★ ★ ½ (2.5/5)
Boyfriend friendly: The title and predominantly male cast will make it hard for him to realize you tricked him into seeing a chick flick.

In a world where women are cursed with longer bathrooms lines, our “monthly friend”, and the joy of pushing babies out of our vaginas (seriously?), female intuition is the one thing we’ve always had going for us. So why would any woman want to “think like a man”? That was my first thought when I saw the trailer a few months back, and I walked into the theater ready to sit through a misogynistic movie that encouraged girls to modify their values in order to get a guy. Instead, I was pleased to find that, like dating, first impressions can be deceiving…

Based on the actual dating advice book by Steve Harvey (seriously?), Think Like A Man is an ensemble comedy about four different types of men boys whose girlfriends begin taking the advice from Harvey’s book to heart and turn the tables on the relationship. When the guys catch on, and realize that Harvey has betrayed the sacred bro code by revealing their secrets to women worldwide, they decide to use the book to their advantage by planning a counterattack. Of course, this backfires and the women end up with exactly what they wanted. Like I said, female intuition is a force you just can’t mess with. Zeke (Romany Malco) is a player, who is determined to get into the pants of Mya (Meagan Good)… little does he know she’s just as determined to wait 90 days before giving him “her cookie” (seriously?). Michael (Terrence J. Corwley) doesn’t skip a Sunday dinner with his Momma and still has her do his laundry – much to the dismay of his single-mother girlfriend Candace (Regina Hall), who is sick of being number two in his life. Dominic (Michael Ealy) is a waiter/valet parker/aspiring chef whose relationship with Lauren (Taraji P. Henson), a COO of a Fortune 500 company, is based on the illusion that he drives a Lamborghini. Turtle – I mean Jerry Ferrara – plays Jeremy, a frat boy who graduated years ago and still won’t propose to his breadwinning college girlfriend, Kristen (Gabrielle Union). However, it is Gary Owen and Kevin Hart who steal the show in supporting roles as their friends. Owen plays Bennett, the token white guy of the bunch who is actually happily married and damn proud of it. Hart plays new and bitter divorcée Cedric, who is determined to get over his ex-wife (Wendy Williams), either by hitting the strip club… or Michael’s mom. And even though I hate to say it, because I despise him with every fiber of my being, Chris Brown also has a hysterical cameo role as a former one night stand of Mya’s, who she runs into everywhere. Guess playing an asshole wasn’t that far of a stretch for him, huh?

Though a little long (2 hours!) and very predictable, there are more than enough laughs that make up for all of the film’s faults. (Generally it’s a good sign for me when parts that made me laugh in the trailer still make me laugh in the theater.) I was also relieved that I never felt like the women were actually “thinking like a man” – to me, they were actually thinking in a very calculated way that only a woman could think, and I was pleased that they never had to change who they were/settle for anything less than what they deserved in order to be happy in love. However, I would highly NOT recommend seeing this if you expect to come out of it with any sort of new insight into the male brain. Something tells me that asking a guy what his short-term and long-term goals are on the first date, or inviting him up for a “night cap” and only giving him a cup of coffee, won’t go as well in real life as it did in this movie. Nice try Steve-o, but I’ll stick to Cosmo.

Sidenote: Can someone please start giving Michael Ealy’s sexy blue eyes their own line in the credits?

Moving on to…

The Five Year Engagement (2012)
Chick Flick Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ (3/5)
Film Rating: ★ ★ ★ (3/5)
Boyfriend friendly: Humor you can both enjoy. Unless you’ve been (im)patiently waiting for him to pop that question… then do everything in your power to make sure he doesn’t ever see this movie. Ever.

It was love at first one-sheet sight for me and The Five Year Engagement. Emily Blunt’s cake-filled mouth and Jason Segel’s tux-under-bathrobe attire still manages to squeeze a smile outta me every single time I see it. However, an itty bitty voice inside my head kept telling me to be skeptical and not fall too hard. Sure, it was written by and stars Jason Segel – the man behind one of my absolute favorite movies (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) and the man who makes up 50% of my all-time favorite fictional couple (Marshmallow and Lilypad!). But there was something about the premise that always irked me. Why would moving to Michigan mean you’d have to delay your wedding by five years? One or two years while you get settled – sure. But five?! I’ve known people who’ve had super long engagements, but it’s usually for logistical reasons, like the reception hall the bride-to-be’s been dreaming of since she was a little girl is booked for the next 3 years or that her sister got engaged at the same time and she wants her own separate year to be a “Princess Bride”. Having to postpone tying the knot because you move to Michigan and the relationship gets a little rocky? Well, that has me wondering if the couple should even get married in the first place…

The Five Year Engagement starts off where most romcoms end. Tom (Segel) proposes to his girlfriend of exactly one year, Violet (Blunt), on the rooftop of the San Fran restaurant where he works as a sous chef, while fireworks go off ringing in the new year. She accepts and engagement parties and pre-wedding bliss ensue… until Violet receives an acceptance letter inviting her to participate in a two-year post-doctoral psychology program at the University of Michigan. Tom is supportive, saying he can cook anywhere, so the two say goodbye to the Bay Area and head to the snowy North. Only the adjustment isn’t as easy for Tom as he thought it’d be. While Violet’s career blossoms, attracting special attention from the Professor she works under, Tom gets a job making deli sandwiches on College Row. Wedding plans continue to loom farther and farther on the horizon, particularly as Violet’s program gets extended a few years and as Tom becomes complacent hunting in the wilderness, wearing dopey hand-knit sweaters, and sporting an uneven beard. The major blow to the relationship comes when Tom eats part of Violet’s psychology experiment – a stale doughnut.

It was interesting to see this movie with my younger sister, who is my polar opposite, because we both picked different sides. I have always been very driven with a “career first, love after” mindset and eloping sounds more appealing to me than dealing with the madness of a wedding, whereas my sister came out of the womb wearing a tiara and is positive that Kate Middleton’s special day won’t hold a candle to hers. So it makes sense that I was very sympathetic towards Violet, who was trying to follow her dream, and that my sister was sympathetic towards Tom, who was trying to follow his heart. In fact, my sister and I got into a very heated debate after the movie over this. I felt that Tom never even tried to make himself happy there for her, and that he was a sulky cry baby about everything. Take the deli job and then keep looking! There’s gotta be a fancier restaurant somewhere in the state of Michigan! It also bothered me that he was never honest with her about his feelings – she asked him a countless number of times if he was unhappy and he always lied, which caused him to lash out in passive-aggressive ways via repulsive beards and deerskin mugs instead of trying to fix the problem like an adult. Sissy on the other hand was very aggravated by Violet’s selfish and insensitive attitude, believing that she knew Tom was unhappy there but never wanted to admit it to herself because then she would have to make compromises. Instead of trying to help her fiancée adapt, she complained about him to her Professor – who interpreted it as a call for help. In the end, we both agreed that the characters really were not compatible for one another and that the only reason we were rooting for them to end up together was because of the adorable charm each actor brought to them.

What The Five Year Engagement lacked in romance, it made up in laughs. There were some really, really funny parts. Chris Pratt – who, if you remember, got his start on angsty teen dramas like Everwood and The O.C. – has really proven his comedic chops lately: first on Parks and Rec, and now here as Alex, Tom’s obnoxious-in-a-fantastic-way BFF. Alex’s parody of We Didn’t Start The Fire, which was sampled in the trailer, is only one of two amazing song performances he has in the film. The other is a sincere, full-out rendition of Cucurrucucu Paloma, dedicated to his shot-gun bride and Violet’s sister, Suzie (Alison Brie/Mrs. Pete Campbell). In all honesty, it has Grammy potential. If Alex’s singing steals the first half of the movie, then it is Suzie and Violet’s conversation using Elmo and Cookie Monster voices at the request of Suzie’s daughter that steals the second half. Come to think of it, I think that the coupling of Pratt and Brie is what made the entire movie for me, and I kinda think Segel should consider writing a spin-off about them a la Get Him To The Greek.

When The Five Year Engagement was funny – it was funny. But when it wasn’t, it was sad and depressing and dragged. I know Segel wrote it, but I almost wish John Krasinski, Blunt’s real-life husband, had played the part of Tom instead. He could have definitely pulled the role off just as well, and then perhaps there would’ve been more chemistry. I really do adore Emily Blunt but this is the second movie I’ve seen of hers in a row where the on-screen chemistry just was not there (See: Salmon Fishing in the Yemen)! I wonder if that is mere coincidence, or if it is a problem we are going to see more of…

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You probably won’t get this unless you’ve seen both movies but…
                           “When Sesame Street Meets Think Like A Man”

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Wanderbust

Wanderlust (2012)
Chick Flick Rating: ♥ ½ (1.5/5)
Film Rating: ★ ★ ½ (2.5/5)
Boyfriend friendly: He’ll probably like it more.

How does one write a funny review about a movie that wasn’t all that funny?

Ok, that’s a bit unfair because A) I saw Book Of Mormon last night, and that raised the comedy bar for me by a LOT and B) Wanderlust did have some really funny moments…which were all in the trailers, clips, and TV spots. You would think that a R-rated movie would have to leave the bulk of its comedy for the movie but, apart from some male frontal nudity and Paul Rudd offering to pump Malin Akerman with his gonads, I already had seen the best of it. And I just hate when that happens!

If you somehow didn’t see one of the thousand promos that aired over the past few weeks for Wanderlust, then here’s the gist: George (Rudd) and Linda (Aniston) are a married couple struggling to make it in Manhattan, particularly after buying an expensive West Village studio (excuse me, “micro-loft”). George is the sole bread-winner, working at a job he hates so Linda can bounce around careers until she figures out her “major”. Things take a turn for the worse when George loses his job and HBO rejects Linda’s documentary about penguins with testicular cancer. (Now that I think about it, that HBO scene was actually great… particularly if you’ve ever pitched something to a table of execs before.) Without mulling over any other options, the two sell their apartment and roadtrip down to Atlanta, so George can work for his awful-human-of-a-brother (Ken Marino). That doesn’t last long, and the two find themselves staying overnight at Elysium Bed & Breakfast: a commune (excuse me, “intentional community”) of pot-smoking, guitar-playing, free-loving hippies. They decide to give the lifestyle a try after a night of fun with the residents, who include the senile Elysium founder, Carvin (Alan Alda), the “charming” tree-dwelling team-leader, Seth (Justin Theroux), and a nudist winemaker/author, Wayne (Joe Lo Truglio).

This is the first movie I’ve given a lower Chick Flick Rating than film rating so I am going to focus my review on that since, after all, that is the purpose of this site. Although I loved the pairing of Rudd and Aniston – and they absolutely need to do more movies together – George and Linda just never worked as a couple for me. Obviously George loved Linda very much, since he supported her through all her crazy career changes and agreed to buy the expensive apartment that made her so happy, but I never understood exactly why he loved her (besides the fact that she had Jennifer Aniston’s body, of course). Linda never convinced me that she loved George more than she loved herself, and I was really frustrated with her because of it. Perhaps it’s because Paul Rudd meets my sexy criteria in both looks and personality, thus ringing in at #3 on my Celebrity Freebie List, so I couldn’t understand how even a fictional character could find his sarcasm annoying or feel adulterous feelings towards Seth – with his unshampooed hair and gross beard. I’m also a traditionalist, so when George and Linda agreed to explore Elysium’s open relationship policy… it rubbed me the wrong way and I stopped caring about their marriage altogether. However, if there was no open-love policy, then there would’ve been no scene where Paul Rudd practiced his dirty talk (two words: erection selection) in the bathroom mirror. And that was definitely a highlight, making the ticket price at least worthwhile.

Personally, Wanderlust didn’t do it for me but it had a lot of people in my theater cracking up, so maybe I missed something? It was by no means painful to sit through, and the all star cast continued to drive the exhausted hippy jokes home throughout. I just had higher expectations – especially since I freaking loved Role Models, and this was by the same writer/director. My advice: save your cash and (if you remember) see it when it’s on Netflix. I’ll probably add it to my queue and give it another try as well.