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What Women Want

Mel Gibson gives women what he thinks they want: a fluffy comic fantasy about a guy who reads female minds and - brace yourself - actually pays attention.


Nick Marshall (Gibson) is a chauvinistic ad exec whose efforts to undermine his demanding new boss (Helen Hunt) are complicated when a bathtub blow-dryer accident mysteriously gives him the ability to hear women's thoughts. With a little practice, he's able to get inside the heads of female coworkers and even communicate with his teenage daughter (Ashley Johnson) for the first time. But what will he do about his growing attraction to Hunt's character?


Gibson works a variation of the nervous comedy shtick he's been practicing since "Lethal Weapon," managing to deliver an amusing leading turn despite the obviousness of many of the gags. The guy will do anything for a laugh - try on pantyhose, paint his toenails, sing along with Meredith Brooks' "Bitch" - and a lot of it hits the mark, low-aiming as it is. Hunt finds much less fun in her bland straight-woman part. On the other hand, Marisa Tomei is a hoot in a small but memorable bit as a neurotic coffee shop worker with the hots for Nick.


Director-producer Nancy Meyers (the 1998 remake of "The Parent Trap") puts a professional polish on a functional if highly formulaic collection of romantic comedy devices (a light fantasy element, a war of the sexes, a secret deception between lovers) Hollywood has been employing since the glossy star vehicles of the '30s. Particularly painful to watch is the super-contrived character arc that has Nick developing into a more sensitive soul as a result of his paranormal abilities - arrgh! The filmmakers are better at staging the frisky office banter of the first half, raising the question of whether the picture would have worked better if the weakly set-up ESP twist had been scrapped entirely.

Bottom Line

Heaven for the chick-flick demographic -- but woe to the poor male viewer who accidentally wanders into the theater.