I Think I Love My Wife

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This review was written for the theatrical release of "I Think I Love My Wife." 

In "I Think I Love My Wife," Chris Rock does something entirely unexpected. He isn't funny.

No doubt Rock -- who directed, co-wrote, co-produced and stars in the comedy -- is trying to stretch. He is not thoroughly convincing as a buppie, married with children, but you would feel much better about the role if his mischievous sense of humor had come along. When Edward Herrmann has the most amusing line, something is seriously wrong.

Playing a henpecked, straightforward investment banker unable to make any move whatsoever with a gorgeous and willing dream girl is not what Chris Rock's fan base will expect. Again, if he were funny, that might not matter. Because he is not, boxoffice for this Fox Searchlight release might suffer.

Rock insists that his film is based on the last film of Eric Rohmer's Six Moral Tales, "Chloe in the Afternoon," a French New Wave film made 35 years ago. Actually all he borrows is the premise: A happily married, bourgeois businessman daydreams about other women but has no intention of following through on any of these afternoon delights. Then an old friend, a former girlfriend of a buddy from the past, drops by his office with seduction on her mind.

There are a couple of odds things even about how the premise develops in this movie, however. For one, if Rock's Richard Cooper is as happily married as he says he is, why does wife Brenda (Gina Torres) refuse to have sex with him, and why is the couple in therapy? Also, what kind of "old friend" is Kerry Washington's Nikki? When Richard was sowing his wild oats as a young man in his 20s, Nikki would have been in junior high.

But never mind the details; let's go looking for laughs.

After re-entering his life, Nikki appears at Richard's office at all hours in outfits more appropriate for nightclubbing. Before you know it, he goes AWOL on clients and associates as Nikki leads him around town by his, um, nose. But they remain just friends. So far, all situation no comedy.

One night, Nikki persuades Richard to slip away from home for a rendezvous at a nightclub. She never turns up, and he gets stoned with a couple of salesgirls. No yucks here.

Another time, Nikki forces Richard to accompany her on a shuttle flight to D.C. to sneak her things out of the apartment of a soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend. The boyfriend arrives home unexpectedly, smacks Richard around, the police arrive, and shots are fired. No laughs here. Worse, there are no repercussions: Richard and Nikki slip out the door without the police noticing they fled the scene.

The sole dramatic tension in the story stems from the will-they-or-won't-they question that hovers over the Richard-Nikki relationship. Few are going to care as character motivation is seriously lacking in a script Rock wrote with Louis C.K.

Why don't the married couple have sex? Brenda seems to love her man, and she certainly fights to keep him. Why after all these years does Nikki turn up? She seems to have nothing more on her mind than playing him for all he's worth. For that matter, why does Richard seem terrified of all women, even his secretary?

The script could have developed genuine inner conflict in its hero -- a family man devoted to his young children but with a frigid wife and possibly a hot mistress -- but never does. All of which leaves the three main actors playing very tentative characters. There is clarity with two of Rock's office comrades: Steve Buscemi as a womanizing married man and Herrmann as a stuffy boss. But these fine character actors are wasted on such lightweight roles.

As a director, Rock has little visual flair, so the film looks clumsy and stilted. Solid location work in and around New York does give designer Sharon Lomofsky something to work with while Suzanne McCabe has fun with all the revealing and stylish costumes for Washington.

I THINK I LOVE MY WIFE
Fox Searchlight
Fox Searchlight and UTV Motion Pictures present a Zahrlo production
Credits:
Director: Chris Rock
Screenwriters: Chris Rock, Louis C.K.
Based on a film by: Eric Rohmer
Producers: Chris Rock, Lisa Stewart
Executive producers: Adam Brightman, Ronnie Screwvala
Director of photography: William Rexer II
Production designer: Sharon Lomofsky
Music: Marcus Miller
Co-producer: Zarina Screwvala
Costume designer: Suzanne McCabe
Editor: Wendy Greene Bricmont
Cast:
Richard: Chris Rock
Nikki: Kerry Washington
Brenda: Gina Torres
George: Steve Buscemi
Mr. Landis: Edward Herrmann
Mary: Welker White
Running time -- 94 minutes
MPAA rating: R

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