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Chris Rock has been in a lot of movies, but he’s never been in one where he plays, well, someone real. I’m not sure Rock’s acting skills are quite up to that, but I Think I Love My Wife tries so hard that for the most part it works. Chris Rock has finally made a good movie. It’s his sophomore directorial effort and it’s such a 180 from his first, Head of State, that it’s like he’s become a completely different person since depressing us all with his badly constructed political process satire four years ago.
Based on a sophisticated French movie called Chloe in the Afternoon, I Think I Love My Wife casts Rock as a married man named Richard. Richard has a wife, two kids, and a great job. He loves his job, he loves his kids, his wife is beautiful, smart, and a great mother. Richard is bored out of his mind.
Richard’s also pretty normal. Every relationship hits that place where things just seem to have gone completely flat. In the case of Richard and his wife Nikki (Gina Torres), it’s sex that’s a big part of the problem. She doesn’t want it anymore. Richard, being a man that’s not dead, does. Someone wiser than me once said that when sex is going alright it’s ten percent of the relationship, when it’s not, it’s ninety percent. I Think I Love My Wife chronicles Richard’s struggle not to succumb to the ninety percent boredom and sexual frustration that plagues him and end up cheating on the woman that he loves (he thinks he loves?) in spite of almost overwhelming temptation.
The movie takes risks, and they don’t always work. The ending for instance, is so bizarre and far out in left field that it’s grating. The script falls for jokes that are sometimes, much too easy. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of originality mixed in here too, it’s kind of like a comedy teeter-totter. For every smart, perfectly timed joke there’s a lame gag in which Rock squeezes too much lotion out of a bottle because he’s overexcited. The same give and take can be found in Chris Rock’s directing. He’s a little unorthodox. Most of the movie looks good, occasionally it does not. The whole project is the work of a guy learning on the job. But he’s learning fast, and despite some problems, I Think I Love My Wife is complex and smart. It says all the poignant things that Rock manages to say so well in his comedy act, but does it with more finesse and charm.
A lot of the credit has to go to the script Chris co-wrote with comedian Louis CK. Some might remember CK from his short-lived Showtime sitcom ‘Lucky Louie’. Alright let’s face facts, it wasn’t great. But one of the things which was good about ‘Lucky Louie’ was the amount of effort CK put into making the show feel real. He fought to create a half hour comedy about real people doing real things, with real problems. He brings that same sense of down to earth realism to I Think I Love My Wife. By combining it with Chris Rock’s talent for take no prisoners, relevant social humor they’ve found something that works.