THINK LIKE A MAN TOO Review

In the two years since the adaptation of Steve Harvey's best-selling book became a "surprise" box-office smash Kevin Hart has gone on to become one of the biggest box-office draws when it comes to comedies. The makers of Think Like A Man Too would have been remiss not to take advantage of that. Don't worry, they do and if you didn't know how big Hart was before you will after this. The pint-sized comedian goes so far as to get his own dancing in his underwear montage that lasts a good two minutes if not more. I'm not saying there is anything wrong with this, I find Hart an appealing and funny guy even if his features haven't been anything special (though I enjoyed his About Last Night re-make much more than I expected). Last summer, the man had a successful stand-up movie run in theaters and any comedian with that kind of power has every right to flex his muscles any way he wants and headlining a summer comedy sequel isn't a bad way to go. While I didn't catch Think Like A Man in its initial theater run the buzz around it was enough to warrant a rental and though I don't remember much of what occurred in that first film the one thing that did pop up as reminiscent as I flipped through info about the sequel was the fun character dynamics that were created. If there was any need for a sequel it would be to further explore the developing relationships between these men and women and to use them as examples to spell out the lessons that I'm assuming Harvey speaks of in his book. Returning screenwriters Keith Merryman and David A. Newman make sure to imbue these little encouragements or lessons through Hart's narration, but it never melds in the way it should. It is almost as if the writers are attempting to say one thing while the actual movie is trying to be another. It isn't obvious that the movie has some kind of identity crisis, but it does become painfully apparent that there is little in the way of genuine emotion going on here. Each of the men are an archetype who play into these manufactured roles that lead to easily overcome obstacles that would never be as effortless were the film grounded in any kind of reality. Think Like A Man Too is a light comedy by nature though and so it plays everything safe, from the jokes to the conflict and thus the result is little more than a colorful distraction.

Zeke (Romany Malco), Jeremy (Jerry Ferrara), Bennett (Gary Owen), Cedric (Kevin Hart), Dominic (Michael Ealy) and Michael (Terrence Jenkins) ready themselves for a bachelor party weekend in Las Vegas,
We pick up immediately with a rundown of the history of Las Vegas from Cedric (Hart) and how he is going to contribute to that history by being the best best man ever to his friend Michael (Terrence Jenkins) who is at the center of all this as he is set to marry Candace (Regina Hall). While Michael seems to no longer struggle at being a momma's boy his mother is still very much a presence in the form of Loretta (Jenifer Lewis) whose domineering personality finds it necessary to intrude on her soon-to-be daughter-in-law's last night as a single woman. Where this is just as much about the differences in how the opposite sex's navigate relationships it is also a bachelor/bachelorette party movie that will suffice as an excuse to watch Hart's Cedric get these guys in enough trouble so that when the third act comes along there will be a grand enough hurdle for them to redeem themselves by and for the audience to go home feeling satisfied. It really is that simple and it seems both the screenwriting team and returning director Tim Story realize that and so they simply put the emphasis on the couples, giving them each an issue to work through in hopes this will be conveyed as character development. We are first re-introduced to Bennett (Gary Owen) and his wife Tish (Wendi McLendon-Covey) and Jeremy (Jerry Ferrara) and Kristen (Gabrielle Union). Bennet and Tish are the lone Caucasians of the group set-up as little more than oblivious prudes (though the film does place them as the most responsible) while Jeremy and Kristen are trying to coneieve while Jeremy isn't one hundred percent sure he's ready to be a father. Then we have Zeke (Romany Malco who for the love of God I wish could get a break-out lead role in a credible comedy) and his girlfriend Mya (Meagan Good). Mya is still suspicious of Zeke's past and how he is trying to downplay the severity of his promiscuity while the weekend trip to Vegas does him no favors. Finally, there is Dominic (Michael Ealy) and Lauren (Taraji P. Henson) who are repeatedly lambasted for being in the honeymoon phase of their relationship while simulatenously being forced to decide if they love each other more than their careers.

There is fun to be had with this group of people and this group of actors more specifically, but more than anything the execution of this vacation-in-disguise sequel feels lazy. Both Hart and Regina Hall displayed excellent chemistry in the aforementioned About Last Night while here Hall is still stuck next to the clearly amateur Jenkins (who was once and still might be an anchor on E! News). Ealy has played the smooth-talking, pretty boy in so many movies now he doesn't even have to try and he is asked to play that persona to such an extreme here we come to believe the guy isn't having to do much acting at all, the fact he can and has proved it in lesser seen work is the sad truth, but this is clearly where he gets a nice paycheck and you can't blame him for that. Henson has come to be known as somewhat of a prestigious talent and that is evident why because even in this type of middle of the road film and while still playing a successful woman no less, her Lauren is the only one of the group we feel a real internal struggle with. Lauren's boss (a brief appearance by Kelsey Grammer) offers her a promotion, a salary and a move that would put her in an enviable position, but while Henson gives us signs of her bruising from battling with the decision the film unfortunately doesn't devote the time or give its characters the capacity to get into a real fight. Beyond the troubles the script enables them with there isn't much more to Ferrara and Union's characters and more than anything they got lost in the shuffle. Union's Kristen has a kind of crisis where she doesn't think she is as fun as she used to be, but all of that is cured by getting a little high and dancing on a bar while the audience finds out later (spoiler alert) she might have been pregnant the whole time! Yikes. I've always enjoyed Good as an actress from all of her sitcom work when she was younger to being able to go head-to-head with Will Ferrell in last winters Anchorman sequel, but her Mya is so one-note it is an injustice to both her skills and that of Malco's who he is forced to play off. This lack of substance only leads us to not being able to buy into his confession of love in the third act.

Sonia (La La Anthony), Mya (Meagan Good), Candace (Regina Hall), Lauren (Taraji P. Henson), Kristen (Gabrielle Union) and Tish (Wendi McClendon Covey) get wild at a bar.
When it comes to movies such as Think Like A Man Too or any rom-com type flick there is a sense of critical disinterest that is inherent no matter how good the final product might actually prove to be. With this film in particular though there is also the aspect of addressing the elephant in the room in that it will be seen as an African American film. The fact I am a white male in his mid-twenties says I'm hardly the target audience for this type of movie, but if I don't disagree we won't get anywhere. I mean, I appreciate a good funk song as much as the next guy (probably moreso actually) and as I attended a high school that was filled with just as many black students as it was white I find it a little disconcerting that people may think my opinion of this film may not be valid. I understand that African American audiences have grown tired of Tyler Perry productions and that the large ensemble cast put together for these films create a sense of exciting alternative programming to a demographic that is largely ignored. That mainstream studios still look at entries in this "African American genre" as financial risks when it has become more and more clear over time that there is most certainly an audience for them should be shocking, but unfortunately it isn't and so I understand one being cautious when it seems I might not like something wholly representative of a certain culture because I don't "get it". I understand that, but I still disagree because obviously good films can be made that center around the African American way of life. Last year alone we saw 42, The Butler, 12 Years A Slave and Fruitvale Station either make impacts critically, commercially or both, but still only by dealing with issues of slavery or racism. This all came to a head though with last November's release of The Best Man Holiday which earned over $70 million on a $17 million budget and that was without Kevin Hart. Hart has been on a role since last summer and shows no signs of slowing down, but as this sequel is beginning to reveal I only hope he doesn't fully place quantity ahead of quality. He has his moments here, but that is because Story and everyone else behind the movie knew what they had on their hands and let him run free. What I'm curious to see is if that target audience will have no problem accepting Hart as the headliner instead of getting more of what made the first film not only a hit, but a hit with legs because of its quality.