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I Think I Love My Wife

A Sporadically Entertaining Misfire

Chris Rock’s second film in the director’s chair (2003’s Head of State was his first), I Think I Love My Wife is a wildly uneven, sporadically insightful, intermittently hilarious take on sex and the long-married, desperate male. The semi-clever tagline “In marriage no one can hear you scream,” riffs on the tagline for Ridley Scott’s Alien, “In space no one can hear you scream”, and sets up the central character’s moral dilemma: to remain in a romance-free marriage or break his wedding vows and pursue an adulterous relationship with a beautiful younger woman?

Richard Cooper (Chris Rock) seemingly has it all, a great job as an investment banker working for a firm in Manhattan, an attractive wife, Brenda Cooper (Gina Torres), two adorable children, a large house, and…a non-existent sex life. After almost eight years of marriage, the romance has gone out of Richard and Brenda’s relationship. On the way to and from work, Richard fantasizes about all the beautiful women he encounters, but doesn’t pursue any of them. At work, he’s kept on his toes by a demanding boss, Mr. Landis (Edward Herrmann). Richard’s womanizing co-worker, George (Steve Buscemi), “happily married” for seventeen years, seems to live the carefree, conscience-free life Richard wants for himself.

Richard’s life changes when Nikki Tru (Kerry Washington), an old friend’s ex-girlfriend, drops in to the office unexpectedly. Richard always lusted for Nikki, but now that she appears asking for help (a recommendation for a job), all he can do is pursue a relatively chaste friendship with her. Nikki may be beautiful and bright, but she’s also manipulative, seeing Richard as a potential bedmate and, of course, source of income, if only Richard can break free of his conscience.

A loose remake of Eric Rohmer’s film (the operative word here is “loose”), Chloe in the Afternoon, I Think I Love My Wife doesn’t exactly fit into the urban comedy sub-genre. It’s not exactly a romantic comedy/drama either (a date movie, maybe). While I Think I Love My Wife focuses exclusively on the trials and tribulations of an upper-middle class black man it is more universal than its first appears.

However, I Think I Love My Wife has the thinnest of stories to hang a film on. That much is evident when it shifts into montage mode late in the film. It’s also evident in Richard’s redundant voiceover narration that isn’t as insightful or humorous as Rock seems to think it is. Combine Rock’s obvious limitations as an actor and Richard’s F-bomb studded tantrums and the end result is that we never buy into Rock as an investment banker. On the other hand, I Think I Love My Wife has a strong supporting cast, including Gina Torres (solid, steady, talented) and Kerry Washington (who truly shines as Nikki) to carry him through the heavier dramatic scenes. Steve Buscemi, however, shows up, repeats a few semi-funny lines, and collects an easy paycheck.

Still, the dialogue between the characters is often sharp and clever. The sight gags (e.g. one involving Richard and priapism) are just as often hilarious. Too bad Chris-Rock-the-director didn’t realize that Chris-Rock-the-actor was ill-suited to the role of a successful investment banker suffering through a mid-life crisis. If only Rock-the-director had replaced Rock-the-actor with a more talented and experienced actor (say, for example, Terence Howard), I Think I Love My Wife might, just might, have appeal beyond Chris Rock’s fans.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars