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Overall Rating

Awesome: 2.7%
Worth A Look: 16.22%
Just Average40.54%
Pretty Crappy: 37.84%
Sucks: 2.7%

5 reviews, 7 user ratings

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I Think I Love My Wife
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Hoochie In The Afternoon"
3 stars

For every top-shelf comedian who has managed to find a way to successfully make the transition from the comedy clubs to film or television in a creatively satisfying manner that serves as a logical extension of their stand-up work–I’m thinking of the films of Woody Allen and Albert Brooks and the small-screen endeavors of Jerry Seinfeld and Roseanne–there are probably a half-dozen who have found themselves unable to make that leap, at least from an artistic perspective. For example, Richard Pryor was probably the greatest comedian who ever lived but while his work in Hollywood obviously paid well from a monetary perspective, he was never able to find a vehicle that offered the artistic depth or performance range that he so clearly demonstrated he was capable of in his stand-up routines. There were many depressing spectacles to behold in the multiplexes in the 1980's but the sight of Pryor–a man who could conjure up entire worlds and galleries of fully developed characters with nothing more than a bare stage, a microphone and his gifts as a storyteller–flailing through the likes of “Superman III” and “Critical Condition” may have been the saddest to behold.

Arguably the funniest and most incisive comedian of his generation, Chris Rock has suffered the same problems that Pryor and others once endured in his own stabs at big-screen. Although he has found great success in translating his stage appeal to television (in “The Chris Rock Show” and “Everybody Hates Chris”), his attempts to do the same in movies have largely failed to inspire, both as a hired hand (as in “Lethal Weapon 4" or “Bad Company”) and in projects where he has taken a more significant portion of the creative control (“Pootie Tang,” “Down to Earth” and “Head of State.”), and the results have been the kind of dumb, formulaic fare that could have been made by and with anyone else without any significant change in the end results (with the possible exception of “Pootie Tang”). With his latest effort as star/co-writer/director, “I Think I Love My Wife,” Rock is clearly trying to do something more personal and from the heart while it is still a pretty bad film, it is the first one he has done to date to approximate the nuances of his comedy routines and the first to suggest that film might be a viable outlet for him once he masters the basic mechanics of story structure and cinematic technique.

Rock plays Richard Cooper, a well-to-do buppie type with a good job, a pair of adorable kids and all the accouterments of a happy and successful life. The problem is after eight years of marriage to wife Brenda (Gina Torres), their relationship has bogged down into a rut of routine and vague dissatisfaction. Yes, Richard still loves Brenda but, to put it simply, he is bored out of his mind and spends his time enviously eying co-worker George (Steve Buscemi) as he regularly cheats on his wife with cheerful abandon. What knocks him out of his rut and into new and uncharted territory is a visit one day from Nikki Blu (Kerry Washington), the sexy former girlfriend of an old college friend. At first, Nikki only appears in order to solicit a letter of recommendation for a job but she senses that Richard may not be as happy as he claims and begins popping up (and out) at the office every day to visit.

Despite the assumptions of most of his co-workers, Richard does not sleep with Nikki but he does begin to spend an inordinate amount of time with her because she represents the kind of spice and adventure that his life of late has been otherwise lacking. The trouble is this friendship, which Brenda does not know about, results in him getting all of the unfortunate side effects of carrying on a clandestine affair–whispered accusations, juggling secrets and soul-crushing guilt–but none of the benefits. Before long, though, Richard begins to realize that while Nikki may well be a sexy free spirit (I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the character was named after Prince’s “Darling Nikki”), she is also incredibly self-absorbed and irresponsible–the kind whose idea of a small favor involves crossing state lines, jealous ex-boyfriends and gunplay and who always seems to have an extraordinarily convoluted explanation for showing up hours late for an appointment–and he resolves to stop seeing her once and for all. It doesn’t last, of course, and Richard finds himself at a crossroads where he has to make up his mind for good as to whether he wants to return to the tried and true routine of married life or succumb to Nikki’s obvious charms and craziness.

If this plot sounds somewhat familiar to you cineastes out there, it is because “I Think I Love My Wife” is, strangely enough, a remake of Eric Rohmer’s 1973 film “Chloe in the Afternoon,” the final chapter of his highly acclaimed “Six Moral Tales” series. Francophiles may be aghast at the very notion of Rohmer’s sly and seductive work being put in the hands of the guy behind “Pootie Tang” but the basic match-up isn’t as off-kilter as it sounds. While it isn’t a scene-for-scene remake, it sticks reasonably close to the basic parameters of the material in a way that updates it for a contemporary audience without “improving” it into oblivion. More importantly, Rock is able to capture the delicate tone that Rohmer brought to the proceedings in a few key areas. Some of the scenes between Richard and Brenda do a good job of capturing the rhythms of a marriage that has slipped, through no fault of either party, into a near-suffocating routine. He also gets a good performance from the talented Washington, who get a few moments in which she demonstrates that she wasn’t only cast because of her ability to fill out her va-va-voom outfits, and a really good one from Steve Buscemi, that reliably weasly actor who unexpectedly winds up serving as the moral conscience of the film despite playing a character who appears to possess no such thing. And while many people may find it more than a bit jarring, the finale between Richard and Brenda develops in such bizarre and wholly unexpected ways that I wished that Rock had found the nerve to include more of that weirdness elsewhere.

These are nice and truthful elements and I really wish that the film contained many more of them. Alas, perhaps worried that his younger fans might not respond to a low-key comedy of manners, Rock has shoehorned in the kind of broad and aggressively stupid elements that probably play well in a trailer or talk show clip but which rest uneasily with the rest of the story. For example, there is an extended sequence in which Richard, anticipating a romantic evening with Brenda, pops a couple of Viagra and suffers unanticipated results–it goes on way too long, is too calculatedly “outrageous” to be believed and inspires not a single laugh. If that were the only example, I suppose I could forgive it but we also are treated to such low-brow bits as a vignette with a psycho ex-boyfriend (which results in a wacky police beating and shootout) and a running gag involving people singing the lyrics to a raunchy rap song in a crowded elevator. At one point, there is a scene in which Rock goes to a fancy restaurant with his wife and is so distracted by his sexy waitress that he demands that she be replaced by an elderly gentleman. It sounds funny in theory but this is a joke killed by the execution–the chesty waitress’s shirt is unbuttoned in a way that would only pass muster at Hooters and is shot in a manner that suggests that Rock may also be under the cinematic influence of Russ Meyer. (Perhaps this was done so that we wouldn’t realize that the bit doesn’t end so much as it fizzles out into nothingness.)

These moments add nothing to the central story and if Rock had any real confidence in himself as a filmmaker, he would have realized this and dropped them immediately. Alas, the other central flaw to the film is that Rock, to put it bluntly, is still struggling to figure out a way to tell a story in cinematic terms. The screenplay that he penned with longtime collaborator Louis C.K. is a mess that utilizes Rohmer’s storyline but does so in a sloppy and undisciplined manner that is all over the place–after an intriguing opening act setting up the premise, things bog down with a second act that spends a long time going absolutely nowhere and conclude with a third act that feels more like a second act and which abruptly ends just when things are getting interesting. As a visual stylist, Rock is equally clumsy–while the film is nowhere as crude as “Head of State,” his last effort as a director (which isn’t saying much), it still has the kind of drab, lifeless style that one usually encounters in particularly uninspired sitcoms.

Because it is way too uneven for its own good, I can’t really recommend “I Think I Love My Wife” to anyone other than curiosity seekers. However, it does suggest things about Chris Rock’ big-screen ambitions that should be encouraged–he does have some of the right ideas but currently lacks the craft to fully realize them. If he ever decided to collaborate with a stronger screenwriter–someone who could do a better job of transforming his ideas into a coherent narrative structure–and a reputable director willing to let him do more than simply act like a clown, there is no telling what he might accomplish. If that happens, “I Think I Love My Wife” may, in due time, come across less as a failed experiment and more like a tentative first step in the right direction.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15559&reviewer=389
originally posted: 03/16/07 00:00:08
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User Comments

10/31/08 Shaun Wallner Hilarious Movie! 5 stars
9/14/07 Marty decent until the wtf sing-a-long ending. where the hell did that come from? 3 stars
9/12/07 cpbjr not terribly rewarding. did have a GREAT line in it. 3 stars
8/18/07 mr.mike i'd pay to watch kerry washington read the phone book 3 stars
4/05/07 William Goss Precisely what Snider said. Little laughs, less insight. 2 stars
3/22/07 Stacy They had a boy and a girl... Not "two adorable little girls"... otherwise, agreed. 2 stars
3/21/07 smatco i dont see this film 1 stars
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  16-Mar-2007 (R)
  DVD: 07-Aug-2007

  N/A (15)


[trailer] Trailer

Directed by
  Chris Rock

Written by
  Chris Rock
  Louis C.K.

  Chris Rock
  Kerry Washington
  Gina Torres
  Steve Buscemi

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