What Women Want Review

What’s Mel Gibson to do when he’s not making Anglo-bashing propaganda movies? Make rom-coms like this one it seems, and Andy Hall has reviewed the Region 2 release of What Women Want.

What Women Want is released on August 6th 2001.

The Movie
Nick Marshall (Mel Gibson) is the archetypal ladies man. He doesn’t know anything about women, but he knows how to charm them and bed them. He works as an advertising executive for a large Chicago agency, and specialises in – not surprisingly – “lads mag” style adverts. He usually rolls in late after a heavy night out, and figures he’s a hit with the ladies in the office. However, things are about to change. The promotion he was expecting at work he loses out on, as his boss (Alan Alda) says that he doesn’t understand how to tap into the female advertising market. Instead the job goes to someone else brought in who is – shock, horror – a woman. Worse yet, when she starts, Darcy McGuire (Helen Hunt) wants to change the focus of the agency and get everyone working on ads for women’s products. Nick is horrified. Given a box of female products to think about advertising strategy, a drunken night in leads him to have a bizarre accident. Waking up the next morning, he finds he is now in possession of an unwanted gift – the ability to hear what all women are thinking. Firstly he thinks this will drive him insane, until a visit to a psychiatrist (an unbilled cameo from Bette Midler) convinces him that this is indeed a gift, so he starts using it to his advantage, especially to get Darcy out of her job by stealing her ideas. In the end though, will he be the first man to really understand “what women want”?

The use of big band Frank Sinatra numbers throughout this movie underline director Nancy Meyer’s intention to make this an old fashioned comedy in the Tracey – Hepburn mould. Although it’s reasonably entertaining comedy, it’s hardly likely to be remebered in the same way as their classic movies. To be fair, Mel Gibson is totally believable as the ladies man, and Helen Hunt turns in another dependable performance, though she doesn’t have the material to work with here that made her so good in As Good as it Gets. Of the other stars, Alan Alda has next to nothing to do, and only Marisa Tomei’s quality prevents her role as Nick’s object of lust character being anything more than one dimensional (even director Meyers admits this in the commentary).

The film starts well, and seeing Nick suddenly find himself in his predicament is pretty funny. Gibson is also very game to send himself up as well. However, at over two hours, the film is a good half hour too long, and the whole thing fizzles out to a rather predicatable conclusion. The way Nick has his situation resolved is totally lacking in imagination, as if the screenwriters had run out of ideas. Additionally, any film that is set in an advertising agency is bound to feature some product placement, but the extended ad for Nike in this film is such that the disc should probably be given away free.

What Women Want is a watchably entertaining diversion – for the first ninety minutes at least – and features some amusing performances from its leads. But does it answer the question – what do women want? Do women really want a caring, sharing Mel Gibson over a jack-the-lad ladies’ man Mel Gibson? Not sure about that one!

A good quality picture that is very colourful and well defined. There is a slightly “blue-grey” look to the picture, which was almost certainly the desired effect. Generally very good.

Not being the sort of movie that requires “big” sound, it would be unreasonable to expect a powerful soundtrack. But this Dolby Digital track is as aggressive as it needs to be, and provides plenty of directional effects. The big band numbers of the musical score will fill your living room nicely, and when sound effects are required, it delivers well. All in all, much better than expected.

Quite a bit of effort has been put into the menu system on this disc, as it is a virtual version of Mel’s bathroom from the movie (see above). Clicking on various items around the room gets to features; for instance, turning the hairdryer on and off toggles the commentary, and the scene selection is in the bath, so all the pictures ripple under the water. However, it is a little bit spoilt by the quality of labelling. The shower for instance, says “Interviews” when really there is also a radio spot to be found in there as well, and the television says “Bonus Material” when it’s trailers and TV spots. Fortunately, there is a listing on the insert sheet in the disc box that points out where everything is.

Getting to the extras themselves, it’s all pretty much standard fare, and includes:

The cupboard under the sink leads to a “Making of” featurette which is fifteen minutes of exactly what you would expect. That is, mutual appreciation interviews from the stars and director, and a few looks at scenes being filmed.

Clicking the pink box by the sink gets you to a Quiz, for which the box makes the grand claim that the US film premiere featurette is the “prize”. Sounds exciting, but in fact it’s just a couple more interviews with the stars outside the cinema on premiere night, after you have overcome a few multiple choice questions.

The shower leads to a 12 minute Cast and Crew Interviews section. Merely more of the same from the featurette, it has probably only been separated out to make the extras list look more impressive. Also in the shower is a brief Radio Spot.

The ambiguously labelled “Bonus Material” on the television in fact leads to the Theatrical Trailer and 6 TV spots. All are anamorphic, but the picture quality of the main trailer is simply appalling. The TV spots are better, but although I had to sit through the relentless onslaught of six of them in a row just to count them, I doubt you’ll get that far!

The hairdryer controlled Commentary features director Nancy Meyers and production designer Jon Hutman. Reasonably informative, they cover off most of the information that you would expect regarding casting the actors, locations, set design, etc. Director Meyers keeps referring to Gibson if she was the first to get him to do a comedy. What about Maverick, Chicken Run and Bird on a Wire? OK, maybe the last one’s a bit of an exaggeration…

Finally, a picture on the wall informs you that there is a Web link to the official site located on the DVD-ROM content of the disc.

Final Thoughts
A moderately entertaining “rom-com” that’s about thirty minutes too long, but otherwise passes the time well enough. The menu layout is imaginative but unfortunately spoilt by poor labelling, and the picture and sound quality are of the usual high quality. Rent it rather than buy it.

Andy Hall

Updated: Jul 21, 2001

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