Take a pretty good French film -- Eric Rohmer's 1972 Chloe in the Afternoon -- Americanize it by having it rescripted by Louis C.K. (the guy who wrote Pootie Tang) and Chris Rock, who also directed this remake, and you've got a blueprint... for disaster.
In this story of a sort-of happily married guy whose eyes keep straying toward other women, there are some funny moments -- about three of them. One comes when he's ogling all kinds of women on the way to work, and says, in off-screen narration, "She's like a painting I'd love to mount."
Funny, yes; raunchy, too. But even when the film stops being funny, it remains raunchy, which I guess is what happens when you put Rock in charge. What's really too bad is that there was no reining in of the film's crudeness.
There's generous usage of the F-word by all of the main characters -- male and female (even the generally classy Edward Herrmann drops the bomb, and you can feel the actor's embarrassment). And most of the black characters get to spout the ever-popular N-word from time to time.
In Chloe, the protagonist was indeed a happily married man who is visited in his office by a flash from the past -- the former girlfriend of an old pal. They talk and talk and talk till you begin to wonder why she's come looking for him. And then you find out: She wants a baby with him, even though he's married.
In the remake, a decision was made to give the protagonist -- Rock plays investment banker Richard Cooper -- something to ponder when Nikki (Kerry Washington) stops by his office out of the blue. He's happy with his job and with his home life -- beautiful wife, two nice kids. But as he admits in off-screen voice-over (the original film's endless talk is replaced here by endless narration), he's totally bored.
Why is he bored? Here you go, dumbed-down American audiences: He's bored because his wife refuses to have sex with him. Hold on, I just remembered another funny bit. He and his wife (Gina Torres), realizing there's a problem, go to a useless therapist. A witty scenario ensues. Then the therapist is dropped from the film until right near the end.
A short while after that first session, Nikki makes her unannounced appearance, happily chattering away, finally telling him that she needs a job reference, and would Richard please sign the letter she happens to have with her.
Nikki is smokin'. She walks well, talks well (except for the cursing), wears her outfits well, and she catches Richard off-guard. She's also, by the way, smokin' literally -- there's a cigarette always dangling from her mouth. (That's how writers of a movie like this signal that a woman is Trouble.)
And Trouble she is. She asks Richard out to lunch and won't take a "no." She starts visiting every day, starts asking for more favors, some of them outrageous. And this poor guy does everything she asks -- concealing her existence from his wife, of course.
But what does Nikki really want from Richard? There's no sex, not even a hint of it, and her visits, along with her increasingly haughty attitude toward everyone but Richard, become intrusive and annoying.
Because nothing is spelled out, the film, too, becomes annoying. When things go wrong at home, Richard tries to fix everything by treating his wife extra-nice, hoping that his actions will lead to sex. Unfortunately, all they lead to are Viagra jokes.
Yup, that's the level of comedy this film stoops to. On top of that, the script makes room for a steady supply of non-malicious white slurs from black characters, and demands on Richard by Nikki that actually lead to his life being in danger. This is not funny.
Neither does any of it come together. Nikki's motives are never revealed. Has she gotten some kicks out of torturing this sweet, confused, unassuming guy? Did she hope to break up his shaky marriage? There's no way to tell.
Just as this pointless movie is nearing its conclusion without offering any clear-cut answers, two of its main characters suddenly break into song. And then it's over. Hmmm, the ending of I Think I Love My Wife makes absolutely no sense. But considering what's come before it, that's perfect!
I THINK I LOVE MY WIFE
Co-written and directed by Chris Rock
Starring Chris Rock, Kelly Alexander, Gina Torres