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March 18, 2007

Movie Review – I Think I Love My Wife (2007)


I Think I Love My Wife 031807

Chris Rock is the co-writer, director and star of his new comedy I Think I Love My Wife. The film is a remake of the 1972 French film Chloe in the Afternoon and preserves the basic premise. Rock plays Richard Cooper, a man who is married to a loving wife (Gina Torres) but is bored because the passion has gone out of their marriage. An old friend Nikki (Kerry Washington) comes back into his life, and he starts to spend more and more time with her, neglecting his responsibilities at work and home.

Though I Think I Love My Wife is based on a film which is not a comedy, Rock sees the potential humor in the situation. However, at times it seems that the comedy is awkwardly juxtaposed with the dramatic elements of the film. There is much sadness in watching Richard’s world deteriorate, which is perhaps a bit heavy-handed compared to the lightness of the comedy. At other points, the comedy seems forced and out-of-place.

The film does have some elements that make it somewhat worthwhile. Richard is a loving husband and father and someone who is good at his job. Although his wife is somewhat underdeveloped as a character, we still recognize that their marriage is not over and a potential affair by Richard could easily ruin the life that they have built. The film also presents the other side of the issue. Love is fine, but what is a marriage without a spark? Nikki provides that spark that Richard’s wife has lost.

Unfortunately, the film could have had real potential to really explore the difference between Richard’s relationships with the two women, but does not do enough. For example, the film misses an opportunity when Nikki goes to an auto show with Richard. They have a lot of fun together, so Richard takes his wife to the same auto show the next day. What could have been a great moment to contrast the two relationships instead turns into a dumb joke about minivans.

Basically, the problem is that we never really see why Richard loves his wife other than the fact that he feels some obligation to her. I did read an interview where Rock mentioned that the wife was barely in the original film, and that they did a lot to flesh out her character. But I think that the character either needs to barely be in the film or fully realized to work – there is no halfway. We see why Richard is bored, but we never see his wife’s good side. All the film shows us is contrast, and how much more of a connection Richard feels with Nikki. In one scene, Nikki and Richard throw dollar bills out a window and watch the people below scramble for them. Moments like this actually make us wonder why Richard doesn’t leave his wife, because the film never shows us any fun family moments, just static moments of domesticity.

Even though some of the humor in the film seems disconnected with the larger narrative, some of it is very funny. In a fantasy sequence, Richard imagines what it would be like to be single and surrounded by attractive women. Though it does not feel like a cohesive part of the movie, it is one of the funniest parts of the film.

As an aside, Steve Buscemi is horrendously miscast as one of Richard’s co-workers. I guess I just can’t buy Buscemi as an investment banker. Otherwise, I think the casting was generally well done, especially Washington who brings us a nice blend of sweet and seductive.

This could have been a very good film and it does have some great moments, but it just didn’t come together for me. There are still some laughs here, if you enjoy Rock’s brand of humor, but otherwise the only thing this film has done for me is make me curious to see the original.

2 1/2 stars