Mel Gibson is a womanizing ad exec who, as a friend puts it to him, can get into a woman's pants but not her head. (Considering all the girls who wind up in bed with him, many men would say this guy already has a head-start on knowing what women want.) After a freak accident, however, he is suddenly given the ability to hear the innermost thoughts of every female on earth. Before you know it, you're smack dab in the middle of Romantic Comedyland.
I had low expectations as I went into this. And yet... and yet... I found myself enjoying it. Yes, What Women Want is Hollywood manipulation at its worst. It's pat, it's predictable, it's way too cute. And if you've even seen the poster you know how it's going to end: Mel will get in touch with his feminine side, stop treating women like dirt, and win the heart of costar Helen Hunt in the process. But I guess every once in a while the old formula is strangely comfortable, like an old shoe.
All that aside, I must call out three strong performances: Ashley Johnson as Gibson's eternally embarrassed teenage daughter, Judy Greer as the lonely assistant in Gibson's firm, and, surprisingly, Helen Hunt, whom I don't usually like. She finds not only the strengths but the weaknesses within her smart, insecure character. The romance between Gibson and Hunt is palatable, too: it's nice to see a love affair blossom between two mature adults instead of yet more dithering teenagers. As for Mel Gibson? Well, I haven't liked any of his films since he left Australia; I find his persona insufferably smug. Thus I'll dismiss him as being "tolerable" in this film, but I certainly wasn't impressed by his gratuitious dancing scene, where he twirls a hat to Frank Sinatra for the sole purpose of making the blue-haired ladies in the audience say, "That Mel, what a charmer."
The movie definitely gets smarter as it rolls along (especially since it starts with a lame opening passage which describes Gibson's character as a child), and if you pretend that Gibson and Hunt weren't paid millions of dollars to act as though they like each other, you might think you've seen a worthwhile film.