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ORIGINALLY WRITTEN BOB WADE
“What Women Want.” Rated PG-13. I give it a 3 on a scale of 5.


The basic premise for “What Women Want” is actually a pretty good idea. A self-proclaimed ladies’ man is involved in a freak accident and can suddenly hear the thoughts of women around him, most of whom (much to his painful surprise) think he is a jerk.


Even his 15-year-old daughter is among those who don’t think much of advertising executive Nick Marshall (Mel Gibson). So, when Nick receives his “gift,” he begins to understand where the women in his life are really coming from. To cut right to the heart of what plot there is, he becomes a better man for it.


All this is not a bad premise for a movie. But, if the viewer can sidestep the obvious that falling into a full bathtub with a running hair dryer is not likely to induce insights into the female psyche, there are plenty of other plot pitfalls waiting just around the corner.


I have to wonder:


(1) how come the women seem to take turns with their thinking most of the time? Wouldn’t all those “voices” get jumbled together as they do in a scene where Nick faces an onslaught of female joggers, all “talking” at once?


(2) Even if a man could hear the thoughts of women, would he be able to understand the thoughts of female dogs, or would he just hear barking?


(3) Why does the marriage counselor character of Bette Midler only show up for five minutes, even though she is the only one who knows Nick’s secret? Oddly, she encourages him to exploit his gift to take advantage of women.


(4) If writer and director Nancy Meyers’ goal is to demonstrate that men must be more sensitive to the needs of women, why does she have Nick’s man-eating new boss, Darcy Maguire (Helen Hunt), fall so easily into Nick’s clutches?


(5) How does Nick survive not one, but three, major electrocutions?


At just over two hours, this romantic comedy is longer than it needs to be. Just like the Wonder Bra Gibson tries on in one the movie’s funniest scenes, it seems overly padded. It is also sappier (is that a word?) than necessary.


The film contains some strong sexual content for a PG-13 rating, so parents should take note that this is not a good choice for a teenage slumber party.


I liked some aspects of the movie. Gibson is made for the role, and he plays it well against his tough-guy image from action movies. His solo dance to a Frank Sinatra tune is a memorable moment.


Hunt also shines if you happen to be a fan. Ashley Johnson, formerly the youngest girl on TV’s “Family Ties,” plays Nick’s daughter. She turns in a quality performance. Others along for the ride include Delta Burke, Marisa Tomei, Valerie Perrine and Lauren Holly.


The fact that “What Women Want” is a big-budget picture makes the gaping holes less visible, and the film is entertaining at a basic level. It’s just that the makers of “What Women Want” never seemed to have a firm grasp of what movie watchers want.

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