In the end, Think Like A Man Too is an obligatory sequel to an unexpected success ($96 million on a $12 million budget) that – unlike 22 Jump Street – is perfectly content to rest on its laurels.
In Think Like A Man Too, we catch up with our four couples (and some of their mutual friends) in Las Vegas, where they have gathered to celebrate the wedding of “Single Mom” Candace (Regina Hall) and “Momma’s Boy” Michael (Terrence J.). Through some awkward miscommunication, fiery little Cedric (Kevin Hart) got the impression that he – not sensible, suave Dominic (Michael Ealy) – was Michael’s best man, and the resulting plan for the bachelor party reflects Cedric’s over-the-top, half-cooked scheming.
However, the ladies plan to turn it up just as loud as the guys; business gal Lauren (Taraji P. Henson) has pulled out all the stops for Candace’s bachelorette dare list, and the girls are not afraid to step on the guys’ good time in order to make sure their party is the best party. However, during the rowdy night in Vegas, it slowly and surely comes to light that everyone’s happy-go-lucky facade is just that – a facade – as guys and gals both realize that the war of bachelor vs. bachelorette party is nothing compared to the real battles they are fighting in their respective relationships.
Think Like A Man was a pleasant surprise. Director Tim Story (Barbershop) and his ensemble cast turned Steve Harvey’s relationship self-help book into a unique rom-com that transformed flat archetypes into refreshing examinations of love – and it largely worked, thanks to the right mix of ensemble chemistry. Think Like A Man Too retains the energy between its principal ensemble; however, the uniqueness and fun of the approach to first film has sadly evaporated, leaving behind a more conventional and clichéd rom-com sequel in its place.
On a directorial level, the sequel goes for the usual ‘bigger and better’ approach. Tim Story is back at the helm (with double the budget), and the visual composition of the film is everything lavish and sexy that one would expect from a Vegas party film. Aside from a music video aesthetic, however, the actual visual shorthand of the film is rather superficial and unsophisticated; like Vegas itself, the sequel is big, bright and flashy, but short on any real substance once you peer beneath the surface. There are also a lot of strange segments wedged into the proceedings that offer little and are at times distracting. Homage dance numbers, music video parody sequences… it’s all in there, though why (or ‘did it fit?’) is a question the film often doesn’t bother to ask. It’s almost like the Vegas playground proved too fruitful for the filmmakers to keep focus on their destination.
The same could be said for the script by returning writers Keith Merryman and David A. Newman (Friends With Benefits). The pair cracked the code of adapting a self-help book the first time around – but this time, without the source material to serve as a muse, things play out in much less inspired fashion. Think Like A Man Too operates under the confidence that its cast of characters made enough of an impression the first time; ergo, simply following them through the next step their relationships should automatically be intriguing and fun. While it’s true that catching up with these characters is fun enough, it’s also true that Think Like Man Too ends up sacrificing its greatest advantage over the first film: having all of the characters now fully bonded as a group.
Instead of a new group dynamic, we get the same split down the gender line in order to basically recycle the same conflicts and relationship arcs we saw in Think Like A Man. “The Easy Girl” (Mya) still feels unloved, while “The Player” (Zeke) is still being tripped up by his own bad boy image. “The Girl Who Wants the Ring” (Kristen) is still trying to figure out how to motivate her man toward maturity, while “The Non-Committer” (Jeremy) can’t get up the cojones to enter the next phase of the relationship. “The Dreamer” (Dominic) is still misty-eyed with love ideals, while “The Woman Who Is Her Own Man” (Lauren) is still weighing independence against the benefits of partnership. Finally, “The Mama’s Boy” is still being too submissive, while “The Single Mother” is still dealing with the insecurity and stigma of being unworthy.
It’s exactly what we saw the first time, and Think Like A Man Too does little to truly evolve these journeys so much as “tweak” them slightly so that they look novel when they are really just familiar and predictable. Gone is any real insight or wisdom about relationships, replaced by a cheap basketball game voice-over metaphor meant to frame and guide the narrative – which is about as smooth as complementing a girl by comparing her to a car. Piled on top of that hollowness are any number of sub-plots that never show return on their screen time investment. In short: while watching the sequel, it quickly becomes apparent that the well of good ideas probably ran dry after the first film.
The cast makes a strong return, this time much more comfortable with their respective characters, as well as with the general group chemistry. The strongest thespians of the bunch are still Michael Ealy (Dominic), Romany Malco (Zeke), Taraji P. Henson and Regina Hall – while Kevin Hart carries the comedy as a one-man show all his own. Gabrielle Union (Kristen) and Jerry Ferrara (Jeremy) feel somewhat marginalized in this follow-up, while Meagan Good (Mya) and Terrence Jenkins (Michael) are noticeably weaker performers than their co-stars – especially noticeable since both their characters get some of the heavier dramatic arcs.
Think Like A Man Too also throws in a LOT of supporting characters – most of whom have little impact. Bridesmaids‘ Wendi McLendon-Covey might as well not have been in the movie; the same could be said for La La Anthony, who appears out of nowhere in order to say/contribute nothing during her extensive screen time. Actress Jenifer Lewis is given the only legit side-arc as Michael’s “old battle-ax” of a mother, with Dennis Haysbert bringing smiles to ladies’ faces as the franchise’s obligatory black hunk cameo (it was Morris Chestnut in the first film). Sadly, Gary Owen’s Bennett – the token white friend who stole many a scene in Think Like A Man – has seen his niche shrink this installment, thanks to the overabundance of side-characters like two other (younger) token white guys, played by David Walton and Adam Brody. There are also a handful of celebrity cameos to keep your eyes peeled for (some better than others).
In the end, Think Like A Man Too is an obligatory sequel to an unexpected success ($96 million on a $12 million budget) that – unlike 22 Jump Street - is perfectly content to rest on its laurels. The only real attraction is a chance to catch up with a collection of charming characters in interesting/funny romantic situations, with Kevin Hart pulling out all the stops to make sure that at least a portion of the film is legitimately funny. It’s not a bad time in Vegas – but compared to films like The Hangover or Bridesmaids, Think Like A Man Too is not even a contender in the battle for pre-wedding comedy supremacy. An amusing matinée or rental at best, this sequel ultimately pales in comparison to its predecessor.
Think Like A Man Too is now playing in theaters. It is 106 minutes long and is Rated PG-13 for crude sexual content including references, partial nudity, language and drug material.