Tim Story adapted Steve Harvey's love and relationship help book,...

Tim Story adapted Steve Harvey's love and relationship help book, "Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man," in 2012, shortening the title to "Think Like A Man," starring Terrence Jenkins and Regina Hall. Credit: Screen Gems

While watching the movie version of Steve Harvey's self-help book, "Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man," you may feel a subliminal desire to rush out and buy the book. Not because of its insights into gender -- Did you know men like sex? -- but because the actors keep holding the $23.99 hardcover edition up to your face. Talk about product placement: Frame for frame, I'm not sure Hasbro's Transformers have appeared on-screen this often.

"Think Like a Man" is part of an ongoing trend of movies based on advice books, including "He's Just Not That Into You" and the upcoming "What to Expect When You're Expecting," although this one is built around Harvey's twinkly eyed personality as a comedian and radio host. That makes the self-promotion understandable, but what makes it forgivable is that "Think Like a Man" is a surprisingly engaging, entertaining and very funny movie.

It follows several couples facing typical relationship hurdles (hey, I didn't say it was original). The women are losing their battles until they find this book by you-know-who that reveals the secrets of the male mind. Example: "Men respect women with standards. Just get some."

As a result, Kristen (Gabrielle Union) stops waiting for a proposal from Jeremy (Jerry Ferrara); single mother Candace (Regina Hall) loses patience with mama's boy Michael (Terrence J); successful Lauren (Taraji P. Henson) falls for wage slave Dominic (Michael Ealy); and promiscuous Mya (Meagan Good) withholds her "cookie" -- Harvey's term -- from lady-killer Zeke (Romany Malco). The squirrelly Kevin Hart, as newly divorced Cedric, counteracts the syrupy stuff with salty comedy.

Director Tim Story ("Barbershop") juggles this potentially clunky material quite deftly, and the bumps are smoothed over by the appealing cast. (Even Chris Brown, in a cameo, seems likable again.) And despite the hard sell, there's absolutely no obligation to buy Harvey's book.

PLOT A best-selling self-help book becomes a secret weapon in the war between the sexes. RATING PG-13 (sexuality, adult themes, language)

CAST Taraji P. Henson, Michael Ealy, Gabrielle Union, Jerry Ferrara.

LENGTH 2:00.

PLAYING AT Area theaters.

BOTTOM LINE Supririsingly engaging and often very funny, with a likable ensemble cast that overcomes the inevitable cliches.


Steve Harvey chats up his book


If author, comedian and syndicated radio and television host Steve Harvey, who's been married three times, seems an unlikely relationship expert, it's because he's not.

"I wrote a book on how men think" to help empower women, Harvey said during an interview last week. Because how men think is Harvey's area of expertise. Men share universal truths, Harvey says, and he wanted to get the ladies to stop talking to other women about men and start talking to men. Or at least to him.

So he broke down his talking points into chapters of his book, which are played out on-screen. The movie's central conceit is that women who've been underserved in relationships buy the book -- which gets loving close-ups -- and confound their men. The men find the book and turn the tables.

"When you take away all the social networking, texting, Facebook, at the end of the day, you've got to sit down face to face with this woman and try to make a go of it," Harvey, 55, says. "What the movie did was it really showed women a lot of the power they possess. At the end of the day, every man knows this: You gotta have one of them to complete the journey. To punch the ticket."

-- The Washington Post

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