The Main Difference Between Taraji P. Henson's What Men Want And Mel Gibson's Version

Taraji P. Henson in What Men Want
(Image credit: (Paramount Pictures))

In case you hadn't heard, the rampant Hollywood trend of remakes isn't going anywhere. One of which being a new take on 2000's What Women Want starring Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt. That rom-com followed a misogynist advertising executive who one day gains the ability to hear the thoughts of women. It now serves as an inspiration for the upcoming film What Men What starring Taraji P. Henson, who will be listening in to inner workings of men's minds this time around.

In anticipation for the film's release this February, I spoke with What Men What's director Adam Shankman about the project. Now I'm no mind reader, but amidst news of films based on another, we often wonder how much will be recycled from what we've already seen. Here's what Shankman said:

We're just drawing from the overall comedic set up about being in a situation where understanding what the opposite sex would be thinking and how it would change them in a way they would behave and what that would entail. So, it's not the same plot at all, it's not the same characters, it's nothing from the Mel Gibson movie used other than one sort of nod to (What Women Want) in one scene.

Whew! As charming as What Women Want was back in its day, seeing it again, just with the genders flipped isn't enough to make it worth the revisit. What Men What is using the same "curse" set-up as the Mel Gibson version, with some completely different circumstances surrounding it.

This time Taraji P. Henson will play a sports agent trying to break the glass ceiling in her male dominated office, where she believes she's earned a promotion. In the comedy, Henson's character drinks a questionable brew of tea from a psychic and bumps her head at a nightclub, waking up with the thoughts of the men all around inside her head.

Director Adam Shankman did notice a distinct difference between the set ups of What Men Want in comparison to the Mel Gibson movie with the film's main characters in his interview with CinemaBlend. In his words:

When we flipped it to a woman character, no matter how tough I made her character, the world around her was always worse. So in her circumstances the problems were really external and his problems were more internal. The villain of the piece is sort of our culture and the world around us but there's not with any victim in it, it's just a matter of approach.

In an age when female actresses are taking roles previously held by men in movies, this example is an interesting one because it shows that the replacement of gender held an importance in how the lead's story plays out. Take a look at the latest red-band trailer for What Men Want:

While in What Women Want, Mel Gibson's chauvinistic behaviors were put under the microscope due to his new ability, Taraji P. Henson will learn a common misconception between the two genders: they're more alike than we think. What Men Want will perhaps combat the cultural construct of the opposite sex being literal opposites, aside from being an entertaining comedy. Not a bad way to do a remake.

What Men Want comes to theaters on February 8, 2019 and stars Aldis Hodge, Tracy Morgan, Pete Davidson and Max Greenfield alongside star Taraji P. Henson.

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

Sarah El-Mahmoud has been with CinemaBlend since 2018 after graduating from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Journalism. In college, she was the Managing Editor of the award-winning college paper, The Daily Titan, where she specialized in writing/editing long-form features, profiles and arts & entertainment coverage, including her first run-in with movie reporting, with a phone interview with Guillermo del Toro for Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water. Now she's into covering YA television and movies, and plenty of horror. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.