- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 15, 2007

Chris Rock fans had run out of patience with his flailing film career. How could such a brilliant stand-up fail to parlay all that intelligence, energy and charm into a successful film career?

After the bunker busters that were “Bad Company” and “Head of State,” it looked like Mr. Rock should stay onstage. His few successes came either in supporting turns (“The Longest Yard”) or when he stayed off-screen entirely (He voiced the conflicted zebra in “Madagascar”).

Not a moment too soon, the rawboned comic has found a way to translate his biting comedy into a movie-length format.

“I Think I Love My Wife” takes material from Mr. Rock’s last major tour and turns it into an intermittently comic look at monogamy.

Gambling types would have bet Mr. Rock would strike cinematic gold through race-themed humor. Instead, his salvation comes courtesy of less edgy material, the kinds of situations to which the married father can certainly relate.

Mr. Rock is Richard Cooper, a successful businessman with a compassionate wife and two adorable children. Life, it would seem, couldn’t be better. But, man, is Richard bored. His life is in a rut: His wife is never in the mood for intimacy of late, and he craves a curve in the road.

Kerry Washington’s Nikki arrives with all the curves for which Richard could ask. She’s an old pal’s former flame who resurfaces in Richard’s life for mysterious reasons.

Richard doesn’t care. She’s a breath of fresh, flirty air, and he starts manufacturing pretexts to see her for lunch.

She’s just an old friend, right?

We can all see where this is headed, and the fact that the sexual chill in Richard’s marriage won’t thaw makes matters worse.

It doesn’t take long before Richard’s wife, granted both beauty and brains by Gina Torres, suspects her husband’s marital vows are starting to buckle.

“Love” spends far more time examining the tensions in Richard’s life than straining for laughs. One exception is a labored Viagra bit that is beneath both Mr. Rock and his film.

While some might miss the stinging social satire of the comic’s stand-up act, Mr. Rock, who directs and co-wrote, manages to massage some racial consciousness into the story without setting one foot on a soap box. A shrewdly written dinner sequence in which two black couples casually discuss the racial makeup of their children’s schools is both enlightening and unforced.

Mr. Rock will never be a great actor, but he’s credible as an ordinary man with ordinary desires. And Miss Washington, who we’ve never seen in such a vampy role, brings a complexity to Nikki that’s sorely needed. Rarely is “the other woman” so hard to pin down.

“I Think I Love My Wife,” loosely based on the 1972 French film “Chloe in the Afternoon,” never fully resolves the ambivalence implied in its title. Yet it lets Mr. Rock riff on some important themes, and we’d all be wise to hear him out.

***

TITLE: “I Think I Love My Wife”

RATING: R (Adult language, sexual situations and nudity)

CREDITS: Directed by Chris Rock. Written by Mr. Rock and Louis C.K.

RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes

WEB SITE: https://www.foxsearchlight.com/ithinkilovemywife/

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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