"What women want?" is the age-old question asked by many males. In director Nancy Meyers (the female version of director Chris Columbus)'s new picture, Nick Marshall (Mel Gibson) doesn't have to ask - after an accident at home, he wakes up to find that he can hear what women are thinking. The film has a great concept and an even better cast, but it doesn't succeed with a capital S - it seems satisfied to simply get the job done for the most part.
Marshall is an exec at a Chicago ad agency and has a rather famous reputation as a ladie's man. He walks around the agency like he owns the place and thinks he's practically about to, but things don't go quite as planned. The agency is looking for a women's perspective and brings in Darcy Maguire(Helen Hunt), taken from another agency. On the first day, she sends around boxes of women's products for everyone to work with, and Nick decides that a little corporate sabotage is in order.
And yet, the film heads in other directions at times. Nick has a little romance with a beautiful coffee shop worker (Marisa Tomei) and has to learn to listen to his fifteen year old daughter (Ashley Johnson). Not to mention, his ex-wife (Lauren Holly) also enters into the proccedings. Although Nick uses his new gift in negative ways at times, some of the time he finds out that the opinions of him from the women in his life aren't what he thinks they are.
It works as well as it does thanks to Gibson. He's always been an edgy comedian even in action fare like "Lethal Weapon"; here, he also does well with the sappier dramatic elements of the story. Hunt also hits the right marks as Darcy - the two don't have the most incredible chemistry, but they're really good together in several scenes. Several supporting performances are enjoyable, such as Mark Fuerstein as Gibson's co-worker and Judy Greer (who was also great in "The Wedding Planner") as the office secretary.
This is a film that could use one big thing: editing. There's a lot of scenes that either go on too long or aren't neccessary at all - they take away from the moments that are successful. I believe director Kevin Smith (and probably a lot of other folks) said in one of his commentary tracks that comedies should be "90 minutes, 100 tops." Although I don't think "What Women Want" could be taken down to 90, taking it all down to around 105 from 126 would have made the film much tighter. This problem is nothing new with Meyers, who also made a remake of "Parent Trap" that was good, but draged on at over two hours. Technically, the film also looks great, with wonderful cinematography by Dean Cundey ("Jurassic Park", "Apollo 13") and production design by Jon Hutman("Coyote Ugly").
I don't want to sound too negative about "What Women Want". I liked the cast and thought the performances were quite good; it's just that several fixes could have taken the film good to great.
VIDEO Paramount offers up a very nice 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer for "What Women Want"; although it's not without a couple of little flaws, most of the film looked terrific. Sharpness and detail are very consistent throughout the picture, whether in dim interiors or the bright city streets. Whether or not scenes were well-defined was not the problem, as the film looked pleasantly crisp. Some scenes had a nice depth to the image.
The problems, on the other hand, were relatively minor. Just a little handful of flaws that kept the film from looking fantastic. Print flaws were fairly minimal - I noticed a couple of minor speckles throughout the picture, but certainly nothing major. Edge enhancement wasn't noticed, but there were a couple of little traces of pixelation.
Colors looked superbly rendered throughout the movie, from the warm colors of the advertising office to the crisp, bright colors of some of the Chicago-filmed exteriors. Flesh-tones looked accurate and natural throughout, as well. Award-winning cinematographer Dean Cundey("Apollo 13")'s great effort on the film is presented wonderfully here in a very nice transfer from Paramount.
SOUND: "What Women Want" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, but like all comedies, there really isn't much to the audio proceedings. The majority of the sound stays in the front, and the film remains dialogue-driven. There are a few times when music enters into the scene itself that the surrounds fire up to re-inforce the tunes, but other than that, they stay largely quiet. Audio quality seemed excellent; the music was warm and clear and dialogue remained crisp, clear and easily understood. I'm not asking for fireworks from the sound of a film like "What Women Want", but some ambient sounds might have been appreciated. Still, a respectable presentation.
MENUS:: Paramount has put together a cute animated main menu, complete with background music and voices of the female characters talking about Gibson's character.
Commentary: This is a commentary from director Nancy Meyers and production designer Jon Hutman. It's a pretty decent track, informative and occasionally moderately interesting as the two discuss the behind-the-scenes goings on for many scenes in the movie. Both are rather low-key though, and the track has a fair amount of silence where the two aren't chatting as well as a couple of "read-alonging" moments where they discuss what's happening in the film at that moment. A decent commentary, but one that may not hold the interest of most listeners.
Trailers: Two theatrical trailers, both in Dolby 2.0.
Making Of: This is a 16 minute "making-of" documentary. It's mainly promotional, but the interviews are fun and entertaining. There's a few too many clips inserted, but there's also a good deal of behind-the-scenes footage that shows the cast and crew having a bit of fun.
Interviews: I was a bit nervous heading into another set of interviews included by Paramount for this, their latest disc. Although I like the idea of putting these interviews on disc, they always end up being "working with ... was so much fun", "they were soooo wonderful on the set", "I wouldn't want to work with anyone else". Thankfully, the interviews about "What Women Want" during this 12 minute segment do bring a bit more to the table, as Meyers and cast discuss the characters and story in-depth, including some fairly interesting analysis by Meyers.
Final Thoughts: "What Women Want" received mixed reviews during its release, but that didn't seem to effect it as it went on to $182 million at the box office. I thought it was a fun little film that was good, but could have been great. Paramount has done a fine job on the DVD though, with fine audio/video quality and some very nice extra features. Recommended.
The Film ***
Video 93/A = (372/400 possible points)
Audio: 86/B = (344/400 possible points)
Extras: 82/B = (246/300 possible points)
Menus: 85/B = (170/200 possible points)
Value: 83/B = (249/300 possible points)
FILM GRADE: ***
DVD GRADE: B