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IN SHORT: drek. [Rated PG-13 (for sexual content and language). minutes]
For a week now (this being written in December 2000, prior to the film's big screen release) What Women Want has been pitched in trailers and teevee spots as a smarmy sex comedy pitched at teens to whom words like "crotch" and "virgin" automatically generate snickers. We've known lots of women and have observed that, indeed, the female of the species talks much dirtier than the male. But do they think in language like "Oh! I just looked at his crotch!" ??(a line which doesn't appear in that form in the movie whatsoever) or any of the other bits in the pre-release advertising. No, not to my experience. The screenplay uses lines similar to that solely for base humor in a story that is otherwise the tale of a sexist pig who grows feelings after a completely impossible accident gives him the ability to hear what women, and small dogs, are thinking.
Finally, a movie with "sexist" written all over it in big letters spelling C-R-A-P. Offering only a concept too ill-conceived and illogical to work anywhere but on a teevee network featuring Criminally Bad Shows (for whom screenwriters Josh Goldsmith and Cathy Yuspa do The King of Queens) and characters whose inner thoughts provide no reason to either like or empathize with, What Women Want provides no answers to the question of the title. Instead it offers up a more important question: What the heck was going through the minds of stars Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt when they, adults both of 'em, agreed to star in this puerile piece of junk?
Nick Marshall (Mel Gibson) is a hot shot ad exec at Sloane-Curtis, which has built its reputation on truly masculine produces. Nick is at the top of his game. He looks good, has a pair of adoring assistants -- Eve (Delta Burke) and Margo (Valerie Perrine), neither of whom have any kind of mental machinery working in their collective conciousnesses and he is on a first name basis with every member of the Swedish Bikini Team. With the firm's Creative Director position open and ready for the taking, Nick confidently marches in to meet his Destiny, in the form of company boss Dan Wanamaker (Alan Alda).
But Wanamaker tosses Mr. Self-Confidence a mean curve. A couple of curves, in fact, in the form of Darcy McGuire (Helen Hunt), a hot shot at a competing agency hired for the CD position because of her strength in marketing to --gasp! -- women! Darcy gives all the men a big pink box filled to the brim with femme oriented products, all looking for new ad agencies, with instructions to come up with something clever by the next day. Nick throws himself into the assignment, the results of which (a cheap embarrassment gag) have been paraded in the teevee spot. What follows is an accident that imbues Nick with mental powers befitting one of the X-Men and while he can't hear what men are thinking, he can hear that 98% of the women he passes are fixated in one manner or another on his butt. That includes Darcy, crackerjack ad person that she is, whose thoughts zoom right in on Nick's "package" and whether or not he can look down her blouse.
Nick, of course, uses his powers for the most noble of ends. He nails the Starbucks girl. He undercuts Darcy's position at the firm while moving in for the sexual kill on her, as well. Ok, everybody raise your hands if you think Nick will "learn something" from his experience. Well, of course, he does. Gee what a surprise.
What Women Want is the second "ass who attains enlightenment" movie we've seen this month, the other being a far superior cartoon with lesser stars doing the voices. It isn't that this grownup can't laugh at 16 year old mentality humor along with the rest of the sneak audience we saw it with. If we couldn't, well, there would be no explanation whatsoever for the success of Scary Movie earlier in the year. All What Women Want provides are a couple of underdeveloped sitcom friendly subplot and a smattering of base humor which miraculously appears whenever the story starts losing direction. Which is often.
Yes, it is December and yes, we're overloaded from the usual crunch of last minute releases. We truly looked forward to a star packed comedy. This ain't it.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to What Women Want, he would have paid...
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