Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Monday, April 30, 2012

What makes Think Like a Man a rare success in the self help based genre

For the second week in a row,the film adaptation of comedian Steve Harvey's romantic advice guide,Think Like a Man,has been number one at the box office. The critical reviews of the movie have been mixed but audiences are still eager to flock to the theaters for it. You could say that folks are just in mood for a romantic comedy right now but this weekend's highly promoted new entry,The Five Year Engagement,barely reached the top five list of movie money makers.

So far,films based on self help books have had the same hit-or-miss ratio with movie lovers as video game based ones have;great looking but lacking in steady story elements. This holds much truer for self help titles,since they are written as instructional manuals for the most part.

Some could point to factors such as Steve Harvey's fan base or the down playing of controversial singer Chris Brown in the cast for most of the TV spots for this film getting the big numbers at the ticket booth. However,I think there is one small but crucial detail that many are not seeing as the key to TLAM's success.

The basic plot of the movie has a group of frustrated in love women who decide to take a few cues from Steve Harvey's book(which is fully titled Act Like a Lady,Think Like a Man)and use them to their advantage. The men in their lives find out what they're doing and go,'Oh,well,two can play at that game!" Both sides acknowledge the existence of the book that is the basis of the movie,which is a little bit meta and a nice tip of the hat to those who read it in the audience:

The previous attempt at establishing this film genre,He's Just Not That Into You,simply played out a short story style of script and so far as I know,didn't directly connect the book with the onscreen characters(I didn't see the movie and have no interest in doing so,not even for Bad Movie Month).

HJNTIY also received mixed reviews and while it opened at number one on it's opening weekend,the film quickly dropped into second place by the next. Both movies have solid ensemble casts and ties to a best seller,so what accounts for the change here? In my mind,Think Like a Man is much savvier for playing up their book hook rather than pretending that their love connection tale is cut from mostly original cloth:

Some may shrink from what film critic Roger Ebert describes as "one of the greatest examples of product placement in history" but in this case,it may the proper exception to the rule. Most people who chose to see a book based on a book have read the book beforehand and expect to see some of what they liked on page to appear onscreen.

Given that the nature of self help titles doesn't readily lend itself to movie friendly plot developments,having the characters read the book and apply it's contents to their current situation makes it more relatable.

Even to people who didn't read the book,it makes more sense-"What does this have to do with that book?" they might say upon leaving the theater. "I could've stayed home and watched a Friends marathon instead!" Bridging that literal gap could be the best bet that the self help based movie genre can make to stay alive amongst the major media sharks.

The real test for this niche will be the upcoming What to Expect When You're Expecting,another all star cast line-up that's "inspired by the best selling book." Hopefully,a couple of the characters will be seen reading the title manual or it may get written off as a typical pregnancy panic flick:

Time will tell about the self help book based genre,which may be a blessing as well as a curse for movie makers and their target audience. Of course,some will never like self help books in any form and will no doubt see the rise of them as hit films as a sign of the apocalypse. As for me,I'm a live and let live kind of gal when it comes to this topic and prefer to vent my movie wrath about other things,such as a lack of a Justice League movie which is a worse crime against cinema to me. Then again, we all have our pop culture crosses to bear and should respect each other's need to righteously rant:

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