Dir: Chris Rock. US. 2007. 94mins.

It sounds like a joke: comedian Chris Rock and Louis CK, with who he collaborated on his edgy 1990s HBO TV series, working together again on an adaptation of Eric Rohmer's Chloe In The Afternoon. The laughs sound even more pronounced given that they previously worked on a movie called Pootie Tang.

But the pair seem to have been seriously piqued by the concept of 'updating' a talky French art film, although not enough to be truly challenged by its tale of a middle-class married man attracted to a bohemian lady friend.

Too often replacing the original's poetic erotic tension for wisecracks and banal sitcom formula, the best I Think I Love My Wife can do is draw some laughs from Rock's always-perceptive jokes about race in America.

Rock is a much bigger name now in the US than when Pootie Tang took $3.3m domestically in 2001 - but I Think I Love My Wife won't get close to Head Of State's (2003) US gross of $38.1m when it opens at home next weekend.

The problem is that upscale U.S. audience - sympathetic to Wife's pedigree even if unfamiliar with Chloe - will not find the approach to adultery fresh. And Rock's core following of young men will find the more serious aspects of the story dull, tedious and too adult-oriented. Women will find the Chloe character - here called Nikki and played by Kerry Washington - unlikeable and conniving.

The fact that the film's chauvinistic screenplay so blatantly blames Rock's character's wife for his wandering eye won't help lure them. Internationally, where Rock has far less of a following than at home, it will see even less action.

Rock plays New York investment banker Richard Cooper, whose seven-year marriage to wife Brenda (Torres) has produced two wonderful children but stalled because she refuses to have sex and won't wear alluring underwear.

When sexy old friend Nikki (Washington) - actually, the girlfriend of an old friend - shows up at his office seeking a job recommendation, it begins a battle of lust and guilt inside his head as he can't decide whether to chase after her or be loyal to his wife.

Nikki is very forward about wanting Richard. And Richard gets increasingly involved in Nikki's escapades, from helping her rent an apartment from a suspicious landlady to confronting her thuggish ex-boyfriend in his loft.

As the director/star/co-writer, Rock bears the most responsibility for the end product's failures. His direction is competent and he's able to move the story forward cleanly. And he sometimes builds up an energetic rhythm to scenes, as when Richard has a bad reaction to Viagra, although the scene sputters out rather than builds.

But the plotting and characterizations are lame. The writing comes alive only when Rock gets in some comments about the life of a middle-class African-American in a white world. With a similar black couple, for instance, Richard and Brenda go to dinner and discuss the horrors of rap and Michael Jackson.

As an actor - even doing voice-over narration - he just can't do subtle variations of character. He's Chris Rock the comic first and foremost, excitably overemphatic and too unshakably in command of his universe to ever seem truly moved by anyone around him. That makes his Richard Cooper unbelievable as a person, which only drags down the film.

Washington never gets a handle on who or what Nikki is supposed to be. She seems far more like a gold digger with a secret agenda than someone genuinely interested in Richard. There's no chemistry between the two and they make an unlikeable couple.

On the other hand, Torres gives as good as she gets in every scene with Rock - no easy task - and has a magnificent smile that is irresistible. Steve Buscemi, in a supporting role as Rock's fellow employee, looks old and tired.

Cinematographer William Rexer executes a neat scene (borrowed from the original) in which Richard imagines himself single and approaching a parade of beautiful women on the street.

The music is bright and varied, ranging from snippets of Mozart and bossa nova to the Foo Fighters. Rock and Louis CK even wrote a bit of obscene rap, F The Cracker, used for a funny office-elevator scene.

Production companies/backers
Fox Searchlight Pictures
UTV Motion Pictures
Zahrlo Productions

US distribution
Fox Searchlight

International distribution
Twentieth Century Fox

Chris Rock
Lisa Stewart

Executive producer
Adam Brightman

Chris Rock
Louis CK

William Rexer

Production design
Sharon Lomofsky

Wendy Greene Bricmont

Marcus Miller

Main cast
Chris Rock
Kerry Washington
Gina Torres
Steve Buscemi
Edward Herrmann