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In the Madea movies, Tyler Perry does drag so that he can play a wise black grandmother. In Think Like a Man, Steve Harvey plays the same role, except he doesn't bother putting on a dress. Or even pretending to be someone other than Steve Harvey, comedian/Family Feud host/relationship guru.

Instead, he stays business casual, and dispenses grandmotherly advice (to characters and audiences alike) via TV screen on How To Get A Man. Or, How To Get The Man You Already Have to Act Like You Want Him to Act. Sample: "Why hasn't my man popped the question?" "Because you haven't required him to pop the question."

He also dispenses it via his book, Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man: What Men Really Think About Love, Relationships, Intimacy, and Commitment, which shows up in the movie in the dual role of plot engine and Rosetta Stone. Samples: "Boys shack. Men build homes." "Men are like dogs - pet us and we'll be loyal forever." "A man goes fishing for two reasons. One, he fishes to eat - he's looking for a keeper. Two, he fishes for a sportsfish - a trophy he can show off. But he'll throw that one back." (I'm not sure Harvey has known enough fishermen.) These things are named as the long-hidden secrets of the masculine world. Though even Harvey tells the ladies that "times have changed; your playbook hasn't."

The guys in the film fit neatly into his various categories: Mama's boy, Player, Dreamer, Non-Committer, etc. Each, naturally, meets and falls for the appropriate foil - the Mama's boy, for example, hooks up with a single mom, someone who needs him to consider a family other than the one he already has. The player meets a girl who's tired of being played. And so on. (A lumpen fellow of surpassing whiteness is tossed into the mix as the happily married man - you know, for contrast.)

It's all exactly what you might expect from a book based on a relationship manual (sort of a precursor to the upcoming What to Expect When You're Expecting?). Even when the boys try to flip it on the girls, the book wins. And it would be completely dismissible as a film except for the charm of the cast. They play it straight, keep it sweet, and even manage to make it look like they're having fun on their way to True Love. Hooray for bro banter and smooth-talking the ladies!

Reader rating: one star.

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