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Friday, March 16, 2007 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Movie Review

"I Think I Love My Wife" | Not tonight honey, we're stuck in a pointless movie

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 1.5 stars


"I Think I Love My Wife," with Chris Rock, Kerry Washington, Gina Torres, Edward Herrmann, Steve Buscemi. Directed by Rock, from a screenplay by Rock and Louis C.K., based on the Eric Rohmer movie "Chloe in the Afternoon."

94 minutes. Rated R for pervasive language and some sexual content. Several theaters.

To sum up "I Think I Love My Wife": Marriage is boring. But that doesn't mean you can stray.

That's essentially the movie, for 94 long minutes. Chris Rock (who also directed and co-wrote) plays Richard Cooper, a Manhattan investment banker with a lovely wife named Brenda (Gina Torres), two cute kids and an elegant home in the suburbs. He's bored, because Brenda won't have sex with him anymore — all she wants to do is watch home-improvement shows on television and to discuss maybe getting a minivan. Enter Nikki (Kerry Washington), a hip-swinging, breasts-pushed-up-to-the-sky, perpetually smoking temptress who long ago used to date one of Richard's friends. She's Brenda's opposite, and she's got her sultry eyes fixed on Richard. Will he stray? Will we care?

This would-be comedy, which borrows its premise from Eric Rohmer's 1972 film "Chloe in the Afternoon," is a bit like "Fatal Attraction" but without the sex and without the bunny boiled on the stove. In other words, in depicting a boring marriage, it gets pretty boring itself. Rock is a very funny standup comedian but a mostly one-note actor. As a director, he never finds a way to pop "I Think I Love My Wife" free from its predictable course. It just plods along: Nikki and her cleavage keep showing up at the office, Brenda and her cardigans keep falling asleep on the couch, and a frustrated Richard dances between them, torn between making himself happy and doing the right thing.

And as a writer, Rock — with collaborator Louis C.K. — never makes the film funny enough. There are bits that work, some of which feel borrowed from Rock's routines: a dinner out, with another couple, turns into a discussion of Michael Jackson (the one subject on which everyone — male or female, white or black — has an opinion); a sprightly fantasy in which Richard imagines what single life would be like. (He bops along in a park, cheerfully asking beautiful women, "Would you like to have sex with me?" "Sure!" they reply.) But the comedy that works is overshadowed by the "comedy" that doesn't work, most notably an extended Viagra joke that culminates in a medical intervention that should have the men in the audience cringing.

In the end, "I Think I Love My Wife," has little to say (other than that men shouldn't stray from their boring wives just because, well, hip-swinging women who smoke in nonsmoking areas are bad news), and it doesn't have enough laughs to work as pure comedy. Rock the writer/director isn't doing Rock the actor any favors here, nor is he doing many for the audience.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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