The idea of a Chloe in the Afternoon remake from the team that brought you Pootie Tang sounds like a Magnetic Poetry experiment gone awry. But I Think I Love My Wife turns out to be Rock’s breakthrough as a director—a chance for him to grapple openly with his status as a maturing (but still ostensibly immature) comedian.
Less obvious in its targets than his 2003 Head of State (which updated Mr. Smith Goes to Washington), Wife
is a comedy about responsibility. Rock plays Richard Cooper, a
high-powered businessman at a midtown-Manhattan firm. He’s frustrated
with his wife (Torres) and feels smothered by the niche he’s made in
the suburbs; conveniently, a friend’s old girlfriend (Washington)
starts making flirtatious afternoon appearances at his office. She
talks him into grabbing lunch, solicits his help with picking out her
apartment and eventually coaxes him into flying to D.C. for a day. They
aren’t having an affair, but Richard thinks about it constantly.
In a funny supporting role, Buscemi plays a colleague who cheats with abandon and manages not to give a shit; even he urges Richard to keep his distance. As good as the source material was, Rock gives it a pointed social subtext—it’s a rare film about an African-American who has succeeded in an old-white-man’s professional world. Funny without being saccharine, Wife also manages to be ethical without resorting to moralizing.