Chris Rock's I Think I Love My Wife is a movie that has good intentions, but is saddled with a script and performances that never quite mesh. It is a pseudo-remake of Eric Rohmer's Chloe in the Afternoon. It takes the central concept of that 1972 film, and merges it with the essence of Chris Rock's stand-up. The end result is a film that takes a stab at serious relationship issues, but is dogged by a high vulgarity count which only lessens its impact. Still, it is a film that is not awful; it just feels like a missed opportunity.
Chris Rock stars as Richard, a successful businessman, married to Brenda (Gina Torres), with two adorable young children. Richard is happy, but there is something missing from his life — sex. This is putting a strain on the relationship, and while the marriage seems solid, Richard's eyes are wandering. Enter Nikki (Kerry Washington), an old friend who injects herself back into Richard's life. The two are soon meeting for lunches and running errands together. It is not long before Richard's resolve begins to waver. Will he remain true, or will he succumb to the gorgeous Nikki?
I Think I Love My Wife is an interesting movie in that it doesn't slip into the standard stereotypes for the characters. Torres does not play Brenda as a nagging wife, but a woman who feels underappreciated, while Washington's Nikki is more than a distraction for Richard but a woman seeking to make sense of her own changing circumstances. Richard deals with the very real issue of fidelity, the nature of love, and the difficulties of navigating the treacherous waters of remaining true or slipping into an affair.
The screenplay is a frustrating mix of realism and staginess. While the issues and the relationships seem real, a lot of the dialogue feels like a play with a dash of stand- up. It does not ring true. I felt as if I was being kept at arms’ length; I could not become fully invested in the plight of the characters because of this dialogue issue. The pervasive vulgarity was a strike against the script as well. I have no problem with bad language, but it is all over the place in this movie, and it robbed the relationships of their strength. It was as if they felt the need to pepper the script without any regard for whether it fit the moment or not. Then there is the climax with characters breaking into song — what was that all about?
Problems aside, the heart is in the right place. This is a marriage where communication has broken down. Richard and Brenda are not talking to each other, and when they do it is about the mundane things like what they are having for dinner, until the moment that they snap and those little talks become arguments. Those arguments over inconsequential things lead to bigger problems and we end up with situations like those that develop. The characters are in the midst of taking stock of their lives, and they have all reached a turning point at the same time.
This is a film that has a strong base, but the execution is bit on the weak side. It has moments of true insight, but the punctuation marks don't entirely work. It was a good attempt, however.
Audio/Video. They don't look bad, but the version I have to review is a promo copy, and not the final production copy, so I cannot attest to it looking like what you will get off the shelf.
Extras. There are a few extras, spread across both sides of the disk. That's right, this is a two-sided disk with widescreen on one side and full screen on the other. The commentary is on both, but the others are split.
- Commentary with Chris Rock. The track is okay, it sounds like Rock wasn't quite sure what to do. It probably would have been better had he been with someone, perhaps co-writer Louis CK, or one of the other stars. Anyway, we get some information on the casting and shooting of the film.
- Featurette: "I Do Love Making This Movie." This runs for about 7.5 minutes and is essentially a fluff piece on the making of the movie, covering the development of the story from the Chloe in the Afternoon seed.
- FX Movie Channel Presents: Casting Session. This runs for 9 minutes and goes through the casting of the leads, including Rock who bought the rights so he could be in it.
- Deleted Scenes. This is a mixture of genuine deleted scenes and alternate takes of scenes that are already in the film. There are 10.5 minutes in this section.
- Bloopers/Outtakes Reel. Two minutes of nothingness. The ad-libbed lines for the lingerie shop scene were kind of funny, but that was about it.
Bottom line. It was a mediocre movie that I enjoyed to a certain extent but it never took that final leap into the world of good movies. It has a good heart, and I liked that. This is a movie that is definitely worth checking out, just keep your expectations in check.