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?