Worth A Look: 30.63%
Pretty Bad: 20%
Total Crap: 11.88%
12 reviews, 88 user ratings
|What Women Want (2000)
by Scott Weinberg
Sex-symbol/international idol Mel Gibson seems to have just now realized that he's getting sorta old. What's an aging superstar to do? While some of his contemporaries combat nature through plastic surgery or trophy-wives, Mel is merely content to dedicate an entire film to how much he loves himself. Heck, I'm a big Mel Gibson fan, and even I couldn't stomach his latest movie, which is nothing more than a smug valentine from Mel Gibson...to Mel Gibson.It's awful to see an actor you really like appear in such a terrible movie. With the matinee-idol looks and charm to spare, Mel Gibson is the textbook definition of a movie star. Women adore him, men admire him and every agent in the universe wants him as a client. Mel has earned his place in Hollywood, for his excellent acting skills, by offering an impressive body of work throughout his career and also for just basically being a heckuva nice guy. Having said all that, Mel's latest movie? It sucks.
"Mel Gibson stares in a mirror and masturbates for 2 hours."
If there were ever a movie that relied solely on its one-joke premise, it's What Women Want. This one joke, that a womanizing chauvanist can suddenly hear women's thought, is stretched interminably for nearly two hours, and the flimsy premise often threatens to snap like a piece of chewed-up bubble gum. Oh, and it's not at all funny.
What Women Want is perhaps the most blatant and obvious vanity project since Barry Levinson tripped on some acid and directed Toys. Particularly in the movie's yawn-inducing first act, it's pretty clear that Mel has the sole spotlight here. See Mel smirk. See Mel flirt. See every woman alive stare at Mel's ass. See Mel chuckle.
Most unforgivable is a scene in which Mel kicks it into 'rock-video' mode, as he dances like Gene Kelly with his cute little hat. I'm not saying Mel can't pull off a dance number. What I'm saying is that What Woman Want is not a musical, and therefore Mel's swaggering gyrations come off seeming kind of sad and desperate. Surely an actor of his stature no longer needs to be adored this much!
I could look past the obvious self-love inherent in this movie, if only it were actually a fun (forget well-made) movie! The most basic requirement of a comedy is simply this: make me laugh. If you've seen the commercial for What Women Want, then you've seen the best jokes. And if a film only has enough good jokes to fill a 90-second commercial, it's a safe bet that it's a crappy movie.
But What Women Want goes beyond just being an unfunny comedy. I find it truly amazing that a movie that is mainly about women is also so insulting to women! Once Mel gains his psychic powers, he's treated to a non-stop litany of thoughts that pretty much sound like this:
"Hey there, Sugar Buns!"
"Hey there, Blue Eyes!
"Did I leave the oven on?"
"Grr...If my boyfriend doesn't call...."
"Hey that hot guy looks like Mel Gibson!"
"Do these jeans make me look fat?"
And so on and so on. In the world of this movie, women are almost entirely one-dimensional. No wonder Mel has such an easy time figuring out what they want! All the female characters are painted in such broad (no pun intended) strokes, that none of them come off even remotely real. As egotistical advertising executive Nick Marshall, Mel doesn't even bother playing a role. He's just Mel. Period. In an effort to knock the art of screenwriting back about thirty years, here's the plot: Nick is expecting his biiiig promotion. His boss instead hires a woman (the ever-irritating Helen Hunt) and gives her the job Nick was expecting.
Then the gimmick kicks in. All of a sudden, Nick can hear what women think. Well, not ALL women. Only some. And he can't hear everything they think; he can only hear things that either A) advance the plot to the next ponderous scene or B) mention how handsome Mel Gibson is.
Since this whole 'Mel love-in' could only fill about 45 minutes tops, out comes the laundry list of subplots required to equal about 110 minutes. Nick has an unhappy (and rather unlovable) daughter that he must attend to. There's also an ex-wife (Lauren Holly, as the only interesting character in the movie and who also appears in only two scenes) to deal with, a coffee shop girl (Marisa Tomei, who reportedly won an Oscar back in the day) to have intercourse with, a secretary who deserves some attention...oh, and a suicidal file clerk who serves no purpose at all, except to let Mel play super-hero for at least one scene.
The supporting cast of women actors is as large as it is unentertaining. Bette Midler shows up for one scene as Nick's new therapist. I'm just wondering why you'd cast Bette Midler in a movie and have her do nothing funnier than lighting up a joint. It's a pointless cameo. Lauren Holly and Marisa Tomei do the best they can with the one-dimensional idiot roles they're given. Also on hand for absolutely no reason at all are Delta Burke and Valerie Perrine as Nick's fawning secretaries. Their characters serve no purpose whatsoever; nary a punch line escapes their lips. The big gun for the ladies is (again) Helen Hunt. I think perhaps that Helen has been a bit overworked lately (Pay It Forward, What Women Want and Cast Away), because every line out of her mouth (as well as in her head) seems simply phoned in.
While the unpleasant screenplay tries its hardest to win women over, the more aware moviegoer may notice a certain streak of sexism amidst all the phony moralizing. (Certainly the fate of Marisa Tomei's character is not meant to empower or flatter women!) While the women of Nick's world are shown as materialistic, catty or just plain dumb, the male characters can be defined in one syllable: MEL. Heck, it's obvious to me why Nick Marshall doesn't understand women, since he's a manipulative bastard to every woman he sees! But most men have at least some insight into the things women like to hear, and watching Nick learn his ridiculous lessons is similar to watching a grown man try to ride a tricycle. Basically, you pity him.
I'm apt to get a lot of hate-mail for bashing a movie that's so blatantly advertised as a Woman's Movie, but I call 'em like I see 'em, and I've recommended more than my share of 'chick flicks' in the past. You can call a movie anything you like ('Chick Flick', 'Guy Movie' or just plain old 'Porn'), but if the end result is ever as unpleasant as What Women Want, there's only one real label, and that's JUNK.Much like Helen Hunt's absent-minded performance, this entire movie just reeks of laziness, as if the whole 'woman gimmick' (and the presence of Mel Gibson) was more than enough to warrant a feature film. My guess is that the limp direction offered by Nancy Myers (The Parent Trap) was simply overpowered by the sheer magnitude of Mel Gibson's 200-pound ego. The resulting movie is like watching 50 women watch Mel Gibson kiss himself for 2 hours.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=3906&reviewer=128
originally posted: 12/16/00 17:49:37