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Rated 3.03 stars
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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Women Want Mel Gibson
by Betty Jo Tucker

It just might take a miracle to turn a "man’s man" into a "woman’s man." Still, in What Women Want, Mel Gibson works a miracle of his own by changing from action hero to romantic comedy lead without skipping a beat. Playing a chauvinistic advertising executive who becomes more sensitive to women, Gibson delivers an engaging performance filled with energy and enthusiasm. Sure, he may look goofy sometimes, especially struggling into a pair of panty hose and putting on make-up, but that just adds to his charm. And leading lady Helen Hunt matches Gibson with a brilliant turn as his beautiful, intelligent boss.

Nick Marshall (Gibson) thinks he’s God’s gift to women. His mother, a Las Vegas showgirl, raised him around a bevy of glamour girls, so he feels comfortable with gorgeous women. His two assistants (Delta Burke and Valerie Perrine) cater to his every whim. His ex-wife (Lauren Holly) even invites him to her wedding. Enjoying the bachelor life, Nick reluctantly agrees to take care of his teenage daughter (Ashley Johnson) until her mother returns from her honeymoon. Uneasy in the parental role (his daughter calls him "Uncle Dad"), Nick begins one of the relationships that will alter his life by making him more understanding of the opposite sex.

His other key relationship involves Darcy McGuire (Hunt), a talented woman hired for the job Nick thought he would get. Although stunned by her beauty and competence, he tries to sabotage her by stealing her ideas. This suddenly becomes easy for him because, as the result of a freak accident, he actually hears women’s inner thoughts. Of course, falling in love with Darcy was not in his plan, but she’s so great he just can’t resist. How many men could? Playing a role completely opposite to the alcoholic single mother in Pay It Forward, the amazing Hunt (Oscar winner for As Good As It Gets) endows her character with elegance, sensitivity, and strength. Hunt’s Darcy emerges as a wonderful role model for today’s women.

Nick’s gift also allows him to discover what women really think about him -- that he’s a jerk. His off-color jokes and patronizing manner irritate most of his female co-workers. Fortunately, he finds out what women want is to be listened to and taken seriously. (I think that goes for men too!) Naturally, this insight boosts his career, but at Darcy’s expense.

Director Nancy Meyers certainly knows her stuff where romantic comedies are concerned. She also directed the amusing update of Disney’s The Parent Trap and co-wrote Private Benjamin, Father of the Bride, and Baby Boom. Hunt compliments Meyers by saying, "The great thing about Nancy is that she’s absolutely in love with the Tracy/Hepburn movies, so there’s a classic feel to our movie. That means it’s smart and well-thought out. And the relationships between every character in the movie are funny and real too."

In addition to Gibson and Hunt, cast members Alan Alda (M.A.S.H.) and Marisa Tomei (My Cousin Vinny) excel in their roles. Alda, who has aged quite gracefully, is convincing as an impulsive ad agency head, and Tomei exhibits her unique comic flair as a sexy, but uncertain, coffee shop waitress.

A witty screenplay by Josh Goldsmith and Cathy Yuspa, who write for television’s popular King of Queens, also contributes to the success of this entertaining movie. For example, when Gibson’s character complains to his psychiatrist about hearing women’s innermost thoughts, she (a subdued Bette Midler) tells him, "If men are from Mars and women are from Venus, he who speaks Venutian can rule the world!"

Deftly combining comedy and romance, What Woman Wants emphasizes the importance of communication between the sexes. It’s refreshing to see Gibson in this type of movie. Not only does he appear to be having a great time, he also displays a surprising talent for dancing. One delightful scene features the Oscar-winning director (for Braveheart) in a solo number reminiscent of Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire. Here's a new Mel Gibson -- and he's terrific.  

(Released by Paramount Pictures and rated "PG-13" for sexual content and language.)

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