Review: Think Like A Man Too
Note: This article was originally published at Movie Mezzanine.
If there’s anything we know about Hollywood, it’s that studios follow the money. So when the relationship comedy Think Like A Man became a surprise hit in 2012, earning eight times its $12 million budget at the box-office, it came as no surprise that a sequel was quickly announced. But how do you make a sequel to a film that was based off a Steve Harvey self-help book? The answer: you make whatever you want and slap the title Think Like A Man Too on it.
The sequel ditches the original’s gimmick of framing characters according to Harvey’s relationship “types” and instead just brings everyone back for some wild and crazy fun. The plot finds everyone meeting in Vegas for the wedding of mama’s boy Michael (Terrence J) and single mother Candace (Regina Hall). Each couple has their own supposedly serious problem: Lauren (Taraji Henson) and Dominic (Michael Ealy) are each offered fantastic jobs that would require them to move; Jeremy (Jerry Ferrara) and Kristen (Gabrielle Union) are on different wavelengths when it comes to having children; Mya (Meagan Good) keeps encountering evidence of Zeke’s (Romany Malco) promiscuous past; and, in what’s either a brilliant recurring meta-joke or just strange coincidence given the film’s release date, Bennett (Gary Owens) just wants to go see Jersey Boys. Meanwhile, Kevin Hart’s Cedric, a hyperactive man-child, has been promoted from supporting bit player to a lead role, responsible for organizing the night’s shenanigans. His no-expense-spared attempt to host the best bachelor party ever takes a turn for the worse when a misunderstanding costs him $40,000 he doesn’t have. But these are just obligatory story beats to offer characters an excuse to split up and get in trouble—after all, as we’re always told in movies like this, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.
For a film banking entirely on the idea that audiences want to see attractive actors they recognize get in potentially raunchy and awkward situations, Think Like A Man Too is peculiarly chaste. Sure, there are frequent innuendos and double entendres, along with a scene set in a male strip club that should please Magic Mike fans who thought last year’s Best Man Holiday dance number was too classy. But none of it feels particularly edgy or dangerous. Say what you will about the Hangoverfilms, they had a madcap, no-holds-barred anything-can-happen vibe that at least added energy to the proceedings; Think Like A Man Too is too bright and artificial to feel risqué. One scene set at a topless pool is clunkily constructed to avoid actually showing, you know, a topless pool. The script by writers Keith Merryman and David Newman seems designed to get into naughtier territory than director Tim Story will allow—and that’s when it actually feels like a script.
The problem is, Think Like A Man Too doesn’t really have much of a story. All of the characters from the first film return, but they do little except wander from scene to scene until the credits roll and the studio executives count their money. Cedric makes a passing reference to some sort of vague, Dionysian contest between the guys and girls to see who can party the hardest, but it’s never touched on again. The first Think Like A Man may have been a 2-hour commercial for Steve Harvey’s book, but it also explored universal themes about how career concerns, emotional maturity, and sexual histories can impact relationships. In Too, the characters are all dealing with the exact same conflicts they did in the previous film: Candace doesn’t get along with Michael’s mother, Jerry wrestles with his immaturity, Dominic and Mya face uncertain career paths, and Lauren—well, her character is so needlessly shrill and overreacting that it’s nearly impossible to tell what she’s upset about. The closest the sequel comes to a multilayered moment is a scene in which Dominic has to decide whether to rub sunscreen on another woman after declaring to his friends that he won’t give into temptation. Ealy manages to communicate genuine moral confusion with his eyes, but the film never bothers to follow up on his hesitation.
Hart steals the show again with his manic energy, and proves that he does have a knack for timing and physical comedy (I was skeptical after Story’s previous directorial effort, the miserable Ride Along). A few new characters are added despite the already swelling ensemble, including Bennett’s wife Tish (Wendi McLendon-Cove), and Isaac and Terrell (Adam Brody and David Walton, respectively), two ex-frat brothers who sit around and drink with the guys. They’re one-note constructs who occasionally provide a few laughs but could be completely cut from the film without changing a thing. The rest of the cast is also sadly wasted, though they do seem to be having a good time dancing on bars, hanging out by the pool, and cavorting with sex dolls. One can only assume this movie was primarily designed to give everyone involved a paid vacation.
It’s not an entirely joyless trip. A few of the broad setups do work, and the enthusiasm of the performers is occasionally infectious. One sequence finds characters breaking the fourth wall in a parody music video of BBD’s “Poison,” a move so outrageous that it feels completely out of place. It’s the weirdest, most inspired moment of a film that unfortunately too often feels like Cedric: a loud and obnoxious display of false bravado that’s not nearly as enjoyable as it thinks.