By NATHAN LERNER
For 21st Century Media
Steve Harvey’s best-selling book, “Act Like a Woman, Think Like a Man,” spawned the 2012 film with the truncated version of tome’s title. The romantic comedy focused on the ongoing war between the sexes. Five Los Angeles men play basketball together twice a week. They discover that women are gleaning tips from Harvey’s book and using them to strategic advantage. The men decide to turn the tables by reading the book themselves.
“Think Like a Man” introduced an extensive cast of archetypal characters. Cedric (Kevin Hart) served as the film’s narrator and the film’s linchpin. He routinely regaled his chums with anecdotes about his contentious, sexually charged relationship with Gail (Wendy Williams). Michael (Terrence Jenkins) was a mama’s boy, who was wooing single mom, Candace (Regina Hall). His possessive mother, Loretta (Jennifer Lewis) disapproved of Candace and thought that she was unworthy of her precious son. Dominic (Michael Ealy) was a quixotic dreamer, who aspired to own his own restaurant. A misperception by Lauren (Taraji P. Henson), a successful corporate executive, led to her fling with Dominic. This hard-driven businesswoman harbored a keen sense of class consciousness. She was looking for a man, on her socioeconomic level. Zeke (Romany Malco) had a history as a playboy. His girlfriend, Mya (Meagan Good), had taken the advice in Harvey’s book and was withholding sex from Zeke until he has wooed her for a solid ninety days. Jeremy (Jerry Ferrara) and Kristen (Gabrielle Union) were a mixed race couple, who squabbled over the issue of getting married. Bennett (Gary Owen) was an underdeveloped Caucasian character. He provides a fifth player to fill out the basketball squad and is reduced to playing a bland buffoon.
In the sequel, the action moves to the elegant Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. Michael and Candace are getting wed there. As Cedric advises in the narrative prologue, the gang’s all there. This time around, Bennett’s wife, Tish (Wendi McClendon-Covey) is also along for the ride. She proves to be a welcome addition to the cast.
Always eager to impress, Cedric has rented the most sumptuous of accommodations for himself, the 12,000-square-foot Constantine Suite. It entitles him to particularly deferential treatment, including a dedicated concierge and personal butler, Declan (Jim Piddock). Of course, Cedric has misconstrued the promotion. He thinks that he has scored a special bargain rate of $4,000 on the suite. That amount actually represents a 10 percent discount on the tab. This triggers a financial crisis for him. How can he possibly bail himself out?
Much to their chagrin, Michael and Candace learn that the former’s overbearing mother, Loretta, has rented a room adjoining their own. This propels much of the film’s plot and infuses it with decidedly negative tonal elements. The shrewish battle-axe insinuates herself into every detail of the wedding, trying to sabotage it in passive-aggressive fashion. She is constantly clucking her disapproval over Candace’s status as a single mom. Candace has selected white flowers for her wedding. However, Loretta cancels the order, insisting that white flowers are reserved for virgins. Ouch!
The central storyline involves a competition between the male and female components of the wedding party. Will the bachelor or bachelorette party be the wilder affair? Through a series of plot contrivances, both gender-demarcated groups end up at the same strip club. As you can probably intuit, the situation escalates into a full-fledged disaster.
Returning screenwriters, Keith Merryman and David A. Newman, try to milk their tired premise for another feature film. They are content to crank out another formulaic comedy, with inadequate laughs and a surfeit of vexatious scenes.
Director, Tim Story, is also back again. This film marks his third collaboration with Kevin Hart. The latter was the breakout star of this film’s precursor and he starred in “Ride Along” earlier this year. Story gets good mileage out of Hart’s manic verbal dexterity and gift for physical comedy. Story also mounts a strong video, using Bell Biv Bavoe’s “Poison” to advantage. New arrival, Wendi McClendon-Covey, plays a key role in it, transformed from dowdy hausfrau into a brash club hottie. This parenthetical vignette is the film’s highlight.
The film contains a cameo by middleweight champion, Floyd Mayweather, who is surrounded by a trio of hulking bodyguards. Later, there is a cameo by rapper, Drake. Their appearances within the film are gratuitous. Neither appearance adds anything to the film’s dramatic merit.
Those who enjoy lightweight urban comedy will be entertained by “Think Like a Man Too.” However, it is an inherently weak vehicle that wastes a talented ensemble cast.
“Think Like a Man Too”
** PG-13 (for crude sexual content including references, partial nudity, language and drug material) 106 minutes
Nathan Lerner welcomes feedback