Chris Rock literally grew up in front of our very eyes. From his small part in “Beverly Hills Cop 2,” Rock has shown us his love for hip hop (“CB4”), crack (“New Jack City”), his boy, “Pootie Tang,” and the “minimum-wage brothers” (“Boomerang”).
Rock is all grown up and mature as the frustrated and undersexed suburban husband Richard Cooper in the adult marriage comedy, “I Think I Love My Wife.” Initially, Cooper’s life seems rosy. He has a beautiful wife, Brenda (Gina Torres), and two cute children who all live in a big house in New York’s affluent Westchester County. By day, Richard works at a large firm and is well respected, but by night he is bored out of his mind.
We find out that sometime ago his wife simply stopped having sex with him. The longer the love embargo exists, the more distracted Richard becomes. Suddenly he arrives for work and discovers his friend’s ex, Nikki Tru (Kerry Washington), waiting for him. Literally the woman in red, Nikki is stunning, and Richard takes it all in like a thirsty man in the desert.
Before long, Nikki becomes a daily fixture in Richard’s life, showing up at his job, calling him excessively and meeting for lunch and other rendezvous. The two are not sleeping together, but Richard’s co-workers’ intensely watchful eyes burn through him as though he is involved with the sexy temptress.
His behavior not only changes around the office, but Brenda also begins to take notice of Richard’s strange comportment. Richard’s life is divided into to distinct parts: his exciting days with Nikki and his boring life with Brenda. He has become like a “moth to a flame about to be burned by the fire” and can’t seem to do anything about it.
Based on the French film, “Chloe in the Afternoon,” Rock’s film is a commentary on modern marriage that challenges our ideas and principles of a “working marriage.” The film asks married couples the question, “What is marriage?” Is marriage having all of the visual trappings of happiness, minus physical love? Perhaps, it is a union of two people who learn just to tolerate one another?
Much of the film feels better suited for Rock’s standup than this film. There are more than a few scenes in the movie that are laugh-out-loud funny. He infuses the story with several running gags that include making fun of Michael Jackson and the racial politics of the N-word. Although he is mature with a family of his own, Rock still lacks the presence of a true leading man.
The film’s real standout is Kerry Washington. In her second movie with Rock (they both starred in Bad Company), she oozes sexuality in her most brash role since “She Hate Me.” Where Robin Givens tried too hard to radiate sexuality in “A Rage in Harlem,” Washington’s performance is almost effortless, making her look like liquid sex when she’s on screen. By turning Richard’s world inside out and making him question his commitment to his wife and family, “I Think I Love My Wife” gives couples everywhere a reason to explore the state of their relationships.