Chris gets serious

Rated 3.0

Chris Rock is quite the comedian—so it’s surprising that his latest big-screen effort, even with a title like I Think I Love My Wife, is more or less devoid of laughs. Not for lack of trying, though.

The main roadblock Rock hits is that the movie tackles a pretty serious subject—marriage and fidelity—and it does so in a pretty serious way. So, its almost slapstick moments (an over-the-top, gratuitous Viagra joke, for instance) fall flat. The fact that he also tries to address racial issues—he and his wife spell out words like “black” and “white” in front of their kids—is enough to make you wonder if the main man would have been better played by someone a little more subtle.

Most of the film is not Rock’s usual scream-out-loud comedy shtick, so you’ve got to give him credit for playing a more serious role. He even looks comfortable in a suit—his character, Richard Cooper (no relation), is an investment banker with a New York firm. And he plays a good father and all-around family man—except for the fact that he’s unhappy because Brenda (Gina Torres), his wife of seven years, won’t have sex with him.

A few therapist visits and harmless flirtations with random women later, Richard reunites with Nikki (Kerry Washington), a bombshell blast from his past. She is his femme fatale—merely there to tempt him. And tempt him she does. Off in the sidelines Richard’s friend and co-worker, George (Steve Buscemi), coaches him on marriage, despite the fact he’s a serial cheater himself.

One funny thing about this film is that it is actually a remake of a 1970s French flick, Chloe in the Afternoon, which was acclaimed for being a strong character study. Rock, who not only stars but also directs and produces I Think I Love My Wife, falls a little short in this department. Brenda, for example, is pretty flat as Richard’s nagging, frigid wife. The movie, therefore, doesn’t really make you think about much, other than the fact that marriage isn’t bliss. But it does present the audience with a pretty well-rounded look at the temptations of a not-so-happily married man—and how he deals with them.

And despite the mostly cynical framework of the film, the audience can decide whether an utterance like “I think I love my wife” is a positive or a negative.