Comedies about the battle of the sexes tend to have one clear loser: the audience. Driven by an oppositional view of romance that proved outmoded and seldom funny, Think Like a Man introduced us to six men living in Los Angeles and their corresponding flames. Some of these entanglements were new, others ongoing; all of them apparently left the door open for a follow-up. Think Like a Man Too, like many a sequel, promises knee-slapping debauchery simply by virtue of taking place in Las Vegas. All together for the first time in months, the boisterous gang and their better halves descend on the desert for their respective bachelor(ette) parties and a wedding. Would you believe me if I told you that nothing goes according to plan and they’re thrown through the movie-Vegas wringer?
Kevin Hart, whose star power has risen considerably since appearing in the first film as Cedric, is given a more prominent role in this installment. He becomes Michael’s (Terrence Jenkins) de facto best man after accepting an offer that was actually directed toward Dominic (Michael Ealy, maybe the most purely charismatic performer in the whole franchise), whom he was standing directly in front of when the request was made. Of course, the enthusiasm with which he takes on the responsibility is so great that Michael can’t tell him the truth, and Dom is too much of a mensch to make a big deal out of it.
Cedric envisions Sin City as a boys-will-be-boys oasis of poolside cabanas and flowing alcohol. He endeavors to outdo all best men before him, but his plans are for naught: Massive debt that can only be regained via a heroic showing on the casino floor, male strippers (is there anything funnier in a decisively hetero comedy?), a night in jail, and obligatory celebrity cameo all await. Revealing that these scenarios give rise to an abundance of tired, recycled jokes is as much of a spoiler as saying the upcoming exorcism movie will probably feature a lot of jump scares.
Think Like a Man Too is as bland and anonymous in practice as it is on paper. Returning director Tim Story lays out the narrative wares with all the subtlety of a neon sign on the Strip, not that the screenplay from Keith Merryman and David A. Newman (who also co-wrote the first one) gives him much to work with. Still, some mercy has been shown: Unlike its predecessor, Too isn’t directly based on a book of relationship advice by Steve Harvey. For one reason or another, every character in the original based their approach to dating on the tome that gave the film its title, the main effect of which was to make them temporarily miserable before they contrived to resolve their differences and live happily ever after.
Branching out beyond Harvey’s book doesn’t stop the filmmakers from framing the sequel’s simultaneous bachelor/bachelorette parties as a contest to see who can get the most outrageous (at least that’s what we’re told they’re doing in narration by Hart’s character, who uses basketball metaphors to describe every major event; the characters themselves don’t actually seem to care about one-upping each other).
To its credit, little of the cruelty endemic to something like the Hangover movies is on display here, and by and large these characters are well-intentioned people whose fraternal and romantic bonds are rooted in genuine care and affection. That doesn’t make it any less disappointing that Taraji P. Henson is given about one-tenth as much to do as The Curious Case of Benjamin Button showed she’s more than capable of, however, and Hart has yet to break the tradition of funny comedians making unfunny movies.