TIME movies

REVIEW: Think Like a Man Too — Don’t

THINK LIKE A MAN TOO, Kevin Hart, 2014. ph: Matt Kennedy/©Screen Gems/Courtesy Everett Collection
Think Like A Man Too, Kevin Hart, 2014 Screen Gems

This sequel squanders the modest appeal of its predecessor, and the sexy charms of its large cast, on a frantic trip through Vegas

Cedric (Kevin Hart), the best man at tomorrow’s wedding, has planned a bachelor-party blowout for the groom and his buddies, and can’t believe they’re so laid back. This is Vegas, guys — yet they’re acting less like a wild entourage and more like a “non-tourage.”

Think Like a Man Too, the inevitable followup to the 2012 rom-com based on Steve Harvey’s how-to-love book, suffers from a crippling case of sequelitis. Shipping the cast of the original film to Las Vegas for a co-ed do-over of The Hangover, the movie spends a frantic 24 hours in the R-rated Fun Capital of the World with no effect but to exhaust itself and its viewers. And Hart, who has spurted to stardom since the first film, still hasn’t proved he can find a movie role as congenial as the feisty-friendly personality he displays in his standup comedy.

(READ: Corliss’s review of Think Like a Man)

Harvey, who also used to do standup, has a schedule that would make James Franco look like a slouch. He hosts three daily programs: a morning radio show, an afternoon TV talk show and Family Feud in the evening. Except for Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry, he is probably the most successful current African-American performer-entrepreneur. And in his spare time he wrote the 2008 best-seller Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, a relationship manual with a light comic touch.

The book’s biggest laugh for its women readers was that a man who’s been married three times and divorced twice was qualified to give them romantic advice. But it sold a couple million copies and generated an amiable movie comedy. Think Like a Man created characters based on the male and female types Harvey outlined, while serving as a welcome showcase for a dozen or so attractive actors, most of them of color, who too rarely got prominent film roles. Written by Keith Merryman and David A. Newman and directed by Tim Story, the movie cost just $12 million to produce and earned $91 million at the domestic box office. Ergo, Too, with the same cast and creative team.

(READ: Belinda Luscombe talks with Steve Harvey on Think Like a Man)

The gang has come to Vegas for the wedding of Candace (Regina Hall), a foxy single mom, and Michael (Terrence J), whose bossy mother Loretta (Jenifer Lewis) is determined to set the agenda and spoil the weekend. Each of the other couples has one big issue to resolve before the ceremony. Aspiring chef Dominic (Michael Ealy) and budding business tycoon Lauren (Taraji P. Henson) must sort out their career plans. Zeke (Romany Malco) has to convince Mya (Meagan Good) that his horndog days are over. Jeremy (Jerry Ferrara) seems resistant to starting a family with his wife Kristen (Gabrielle Union). Bennett (Gary Owen) and Tish (Wendi McLendon-Covey) are in the mix to show how dorky and clueless white folks can be.

In this “comedy,” the only one who even tries to be funny is Hart, as a man still resentful of his termagant spouse Gail — or, as his cell phone ID’s her, Gailzilla. (“Gail and I were happy for 22 years,” Hart’s Cedric recalls. “Then we met each other.”) Mistakenly named best man in the movie’s single decent sight gag, Cedric is the little guy with a big complex, long on crazy ideas but short on sense. He thinks his Caesars Palace suite — in which he executes a much belated gloss on Tom Cruise’s Risky Business dance — costs $4,000 a night, then learns the tab is $40,000. That cues the last hour of aimless agitation.

(READ: Corliss on Kevin Hart’s breakout movie Ride Along)

Harvey’s book spurred the plot of the first movie: the women read it, learning how their beaux thought, and then the men read it too, like the advance answers to a pop quiz. The sequel drops that notion; the book isn’t mentioned, and Harvey shows up only as the face on a Family Feud slot machine. In its stead we get a surfeit of nothing. Each couple pursues its dispute for the first act, gets separated in the second and apologizes and nuzzles in the third. You might expect that at least one character would make a play for someone else’s partner, but everyone is emotionally stoop-shouldered under the burden of being nice.

The movie also squanders its one chance for some redeeming prurient interest, when the guys enter an amateur striptease contest to raise the money for Cedric’s hotel bill, and the women happen to be in the audience. Alas, a fight breaks out before any of the handsome gents can get down to his G string; someone must have remembered this is a PG-13 film, which promptly poops on the promised party. To see acres more male flesh, watch the next season of Dancing With the Stars.

(READ: This year’s winners on Dancing With the Stars)

Not helped much by guest appearance from Drake, Dennis Haysbert, Kelsey Grammer and five-division boxing champion Floyd Mayweather, Think Like a Man Too grinds the modestly engaging clichés of the first film into mulch. Cedric was right about his “non-tourage”: Too takes an attractive acting ensemble and makes it a non-semble. If this was the best idea the filmmakers had for an encore, they should have settled for a non-core.

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