Actors love to stretch their talent into other genres to use new acting muscles they may never knew they had. Or maybe never had at all. Attempts at comedy by Arnold Schwarzenegger (“Twins”), Sylvester Stallone (“Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot”) or Robert DeNiro (the recent “Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle) turned into dismal failures at best. Now Mel Gibson tries his hand at a comedic change of pace in “What Women Want.”
Nick Marshall (Gibson) is a male chauvinist pig who’s a wild man with the ladies. In fact, he thinks he’s God’s gift to every female on the planet. Of course, all the woman around him know the real score – Nick’s a prick. He’s the alpha male at a top ad agency in trouble when they miss out on lucrative accounts marketing products for women. Enter Darcy Maguire (Helen Hunt, the most overused woman in movies this year) who is brought in by the ad agency’s head honcho (Alan Alda) to bring in new business. Darcy is now Nick’s new boss and Nick-O is none too happy about the situation. In one of the most ridiculous scenes in Mel Gibson’s career, one he is sure to regret, he tests a load of women’s products to come up with catchy ways to sell them. Everything from pantyhose, nail polish, bikini wax, to mascara, you name it. I’m sure this seemed like a wacky, fun scene in the script, but watching Gibson play with women’s products in the bathroom, talking to himself, is just plain sad. After accidentally electrocuting himself in the bathtub with a blow dryer (I’m not kidding) Nick gains the power to read women’s minds. This new ability has its advantages and it also drives him nuts. Here’s where the film becomes a lot of fun as Nick uses his power to get ahead at work and get into women’s pants. But he starts to feel guilty as he lifts ideas right out of Darcy’s head for ad campaigns then takes all the credit. Other women in his life complicate matters when he learns that his 15 year-old daughter intends to lose her virginity at the prom and a mousy young woman at the agency plans to take her own life since no one notices her. Oh, sheesh. Now Nick must save all three women in his life and spends the rest of the movie redeeming himself. Gimme a break. I tried not to groan, but I couldn’t keep myself from doing it.
“What Women Want” is a chick flick that is a lot of fun to watch when Gibson is acting like an a*****e. But when it turns preachy and sentimental in the last third, it becomes pure torture. Women are going to love it as the film validates much of their negative perceptions about “guys.” Heck, I started to loathe and despise all men on the planet and I am one! I recommend that all men skip the film, however, if you’re in need of earning some “extra credit” with your mate, take them to see the movie then plan to take a nap at the end.