You don’t have to be Dr. Phil to know that relationships are hard work. Everyone knows that to be really fulfilling they require a mix of respect, understanding, responsibility and maturity. Everyone, that is, except the characters in Chris Rock’s new comedy I Think I Love My Wife.
Inspired by a decades old French new wave film called Chloe in the Afternoon, Rock’s movie, which he produced, wrote, directed and stars in, follows the exploits of a henpecked investment banker who reconnects with a old friend. A really hot looking old friend who reminds him of a time before he settled down to raise a family. What starts out as harmless flirtation becomes a moral conundrum as heat develops between them.
Rock’s character continually says how happily married he is, but he sure doesn’t act like it. He hasn’t had sex with his wife since Boyz to Men were on the charts and his eye wanders more than a lost child at an amusement park. He’s bored, but instead of working on his relationship he looks outside for happiness.
It’s not exactly a new idea. The trouble with observational comedies about relationships is that we’ve pretty much seen it all before—10 and The Lady in Red got there first to name just a couple. The dynamics between men and women, married or not, have been explored every which way and there is very little new to say about them.
I Think In Love My Wife doesn’t break any new ground, in fact it might actually set back male-female relations a few steps. His banker is a stereotype, a weak willed man who can’t help but think that the grass is greener in the next bedroom, while his wife is a home decorating obsessed harridan who is treated as little more than a baby-making machine. As for the temptress, ably played by Kerry Washington, the only thing missing is a For Rent sign around her neck.
That’s not to say the movie isn’t funny. There are a fair amount of laughs here, but for someone who has been called “the funniest man in America” Rock is surprisingly flat. His performance here is the same one he gives in every movie. He’s a likeable performer, but every line he says sounds like he’s delivering the punchline in his stand-up act.
The best line in the movie isn’t delivered by Rock, but by character actor Edward Herrmann, best known for his portrayals of Franklin Roosevelt. He tells Rock, “You can lose a lot of money by chasing women, but you’ll never lose a lot of women chasing money.” Too bad Rock’s character doesn’t have more memorable lines like that one. Not quite as memorable, but fun to watch is Steve Buscemi as the sleaze ball co-worker so obsessed prone to having extra-martial affairs he keeps Viagara in his glove box right next to his Altoids.
I Think I Love My Wife isn’t as clever as it needs to be, or as funny, but it doesn’t redeem itself in its unexpected musical finale. If only the whole film was as funny and inventive as the last five minutes.