By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The ensemble romantic comedy Think Like a Man packed in viewers in 2012, topping the box office charts two weekends in a row and going on to earn north of $90 million.
In the original, four friends conspire to turn the tables on, and teach a lesson to, their women when they discover that the ladies have been taking to heart, and using romantic advice from, a real-life self-help book by Steve Harvey, titled Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man (the best-seller the film is based on, speaking of blatant product placement) against them.
In this followup, Think Like a Man Too, the couples are back — as is most of the cast, along with several new faces -– in swelteringly hot Las Vegas for a wild wedding weekend.
But once the dueling bachelor and bachelorette parties get rolling, the big event is suddenly in jeopardy for a variety of reasons, as are several of the far-from-idyllic romantic relationships.
That’s because each couple has progressed to another problematic plateau.
The couple getting married are Candace (Regina Hall) and Michael (Terrence Jenkins), although the butting in of Michael’s disapproving mother (Jenifer Lewis) leads Candace to perceive Michael as a mama’s boy.
Zeke’s past (Romany Malco), which would appear to involve more than a few women, threatens his relationship with Maya (Meagan Good).
Dominic (Michael Ealy) and Lauren (Taraji P. Henson) are challenged by the pressures that come with new, prestigious job offers in different cities.
Cedric (Kevin Hart), flying solo, is getting yet another divorce: this marriage thing keeps eluding him and, even though he’s motivated to serve well as a best man at his buddy’s wedding, he makes his contempt for the institution of marriage clear with each roll of his eyes whenever he’s in the presence of any romantic gesture .
Newlyweds Jeremy (Jerry Ferrara) and Kristen (Gabrielle Union) are trying to navigate the sometimes tricky and treacherous waters of procreation.
And longtime marrieds Tish (Wendi McLendon-Covey) and Bennett (Gary Owen) are just trying to fit in on this weekend of celebration.
So it’s a war of the sexes in Vegas, where what happens in Sin City stays in the memories of the warriors.
Collaborated upon once again, as was the original, by director Tim Story (Barbershop, Taxi, Fantastic Four, Hurricane Season, Ride Along) and screenwriters Keith Merryman and David A. Newman -– who certainly owe a debt to The Hangover –- Think Like a Man Too updates each of the storylines and relationships so that appreciative and inquisitive viewers who enjoyed the first installment can get answers to the questions they wondered about as they exited Think Like a Man.
This mix of hijinks and homilies has plenty of energy, but not enough wit or cleverness, as it also serves, by accident or design, as a virtual infomercial for Vegas.
And the movie is wildly overpopulated, with so many characters and storylines that they pull focus from one another. None moreso than Kevin Hart, whose popularity seems to demand for him extensive obligatory screen time that intrudes on that of his fellow characters.
There’s just too much going on for the film’s through-line to buzz through the clutter.
Hart not only narrates extensively, but dominates scenes beyond the point of reason. Ironically, although he’s certainly the most dynamic performer in the ensemble, his contribution ends up suffocating several of the other subplots.
Meanwhile director Story, in an act of desperation, at one point resorts to split screens and music-video-style editing to inject a little visual energy into the proceedings. That, too, acts as an unintended interruption to the narrative of a bad movie that an audience can still have a good time at.
So, much as we might want to try to do otherwise, it’s difficult not to think like a disappointed viewer (let alone like a critic) and make it 2 stars out of 4 for a loud, lackluster ensemble comedy. Think Like a Man Too has too much Hart and not enough Story.