‘Think Like a Man’ bores with cliches

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Take gooey chick-flick sentiment and hackneyed relationship issues, cool the comedic content to PG-13 and you will have the listless film “Think Like a Man.”

Pat Benatar’s song “Love is a Battlefield” reverberates throughout the plot, as a tight-knit group of 30 to 40-something men and their sexy girlfriends both tactically manipulate one another to get what they want: The men’s goals are reduced to sex, while the women crave “the ring on the finger.” The love war starts when Steve Harvey, who plays himself, publishes a “playbook” that exposes the male mindset and advises women on how to mold their man to become more ambitious, to settle down or to propose. But when the men discover the book and use Harvey’s tricks against their girls, drama ensues. Yet, as in every romantic comedy, each couple reunites in perfect synchronicity.

The film had potential, not because of its star-speckled cameos (Chris Brown and Kelly Rowland offer little comedic value and showcase limited acting abilities), but because of its stellar female and male leads. However, after being shoved into stereotypical roles and fed stale lines, there is little these actors could work with. Case in point, Jerry Ferrara (“Entourage”) plays yet another underachieving stoner that is awkwardly paired with Gabrielle Union. The two look like flint rocks banging into one another to produce sparks. Romany Malco (“The 40 Year Old Virgin”) shuffles into his familiar player persona who seduces women with his silky-smooth swagger, but the watered-down lines do not give him enough room to let his vulgar improvisations run wild.

Michael Ealy charms the female audience with his sparkling blue eyes and scruffy beard and serves up the most genuine emotion when confronted with trite romantic scenes filled with acoustic guitar strums and rooftop dinners. But even his sexy looks cannot salvage cheap interactions like, “I like a woman who can eat,” with his lover responding, “Well, I like a man who can cook.”

Veterans like Taraji P. Henson (“Hustle and Flow”) and Regina Hall (“Scary Movie”) play independent, successful women who are looking for respectable equals, but ultimately serve as eye candy, sauntering around the screen in spandex dresses and low-cut tops.

Nevertheless, director Tim Story (“First Sunday,” “Fantastic Four”) creatively addresses the racial tensions and cultural incongruities with the diverse group of guys. The quarrels with the pale and goofy Bennett (Gary Owen) and the eccentric comedian Kevin Hart, earn chuckles when Bennett counters Hart’s racy remarks with lines as soft as Wonder Bread, like, “White guys do love breasts!” Most mainstream comedies have an entirely white cast with one minority outcast, so it is refreshing to see the racial categories reversed.

Kevin Hart dishes most of the jokes with snappy lines like, “You know who asked me that question? No one! Because strippers don’t ask me shit!” But the blatant chauvinism contradicts the film’s theme about respecting your significant other by repeatedly objectifying the female leads, dressing them in slutty outfits, as well as women as a whole, calling them “hoes.”

The stereotypical blurbs — fixed stares followed by abrupt make-out sessions, slow pan-outs and actresses snapping their fingers in between sassy man-hating rants — are recycled and now inflated in a cliched clusterfuck. “Think Like a Man” will nauseate you and then lull you into a mind-numbing stupor. No amount of celebrities, sharp comedians or accomplished actors can revive such lifeless writing.