What Men Want takes a premise movie fans saw back in 2000 with What Women Want and flips it on its head. In this version, Taraji P. Henson can hear men’s thoughts. In most other ways, the narratives diverge, however; so when a journalist called What Men Want a reimagining, director Adam Shankman agreed, clarifying it’s not really a remake. He said:
Sometimes it can be difficult to differentiate between all of the words out there for movie projects that are in the same vein as movie projects that came before. There are reboots and remakes, reimaginings and sequels. There are also spinoffs and prequels — basically, lots of different directions you can go in within the same universe. Sometimes what we think may be one thing may be envisioned a little differently by other people involved with a project.
Per Adam Shankman’s comment to Salon, it’s clear he sees What Men Want as a reimagining rather than a remake of the original Nancy Meyers movie. What Women Want and What Men Want have the hearing thoughts thing in common, both are comedies and both feature an accident leading to a wonderful ability. Yet, what Taraji P. Henson needs to fix in her life and how she goes about it are different.
The challenges she faces are different. Her career and interpersonal relationships are different; in fact, unlike What Women Want’s Nick, she has a supportive group of friends (even if she sometimes neglects them). She’s not a straight villain at the beginning like Nick, who Shankman describes as “the hero and the villain,” but she is inept often. What Men Want also spends more time showing Ali fixing relationships in her career and friendships outside of her romantic relationship. Plus, Ali has a gay assistant with his own sublot, unlike Nick. Ergo, it’s a reimagining, not a remake.
Probably more importantly, Shankman feels like this script tackles the ability to hear thoughts in an entirely different manner, noting,
What Men Want didn’t win the box office last weekend, but the romantic flick had a good start in theaters with $19 million. In the weeks to come, we’ll have to wait and see if this reimagining ends up with another one of those nouns—a sequel.