A metaphysical redemption comedy short on comedy and metaphysics but bursting with arbitrary redemption, What Women Want stars Mel Gibson as a Maxim reader's conception of the ideal man: a womanizing ad exec with a swinging bachelor pad, a great job, and a long list of forgotten conquests. But Gibson's conception of himself as an irresistible playboy suffers a fatal blow when, following a night of waxing his legs and rocking out to the music of Meredith Brooks, he magically gains the ability to read women's minds. Understandably disoriented by his discovery that women don't like his dirty jokes or smarmy condescension, Gibson soon learns that his newfound ability has a character-enhancing upside. Once a prototypical cad, Gibson soon becomes a supernaturally sensitive Good Samaritan, dispensing homespun, Oprah-worthy advice to the uniformly grateful women in his life and using his gift to successfully woo his ambitious yet glamorous new boss (Helen Hunt). What Women Want's premise suggests intriguing metaphysical possibilities, but in the hands of Father Of The Bride co-screenwriter Nancy Meyers, it never strays far from the reassuring realm of the sitcom, even as its pop-standards-heavy soundtrack strives desperately for class by association. What Women Want marks a nadir in product placement, its ad-world setting used to pass off bald-faced propaganda about Nike "empowering women" (no doubt through exciting job opportunities for 12-year-old girls in Southeast Asia) as workplace banter. Overstaying its welcome by at least half an hour, What Women Want retains the meandering shapelessness of Meyers' directorial debut, 1998's The Parent Trap, by padding its already-bloated running time with a slew of extraneous subplots and a trying-on-prom-dresses montage sequence set to Christina Aguilera's "What A Girl Wants." The slumming Hunt proves What Women Want's sole redeeming facet by emanating the sort of laid-back, easygoing charm the film itself aims for but never achieves.
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