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'Think Like A Man Too' a misadventure to miss 

Kevin Hart can't save this sequel.

click to enlarge 'THINK LIKE A MAN TOO': Kevin Hart stars.
  • 'THINK LIKE A MAN TOO': Kevin Hart stars.

Following up on a smart, imaginative and honest rom-com that grossed over $100 million worldwide can be a tall order. While precursor "Think Like a Man," based on radio personality and "Family Feud" host Steve Harvey's book "Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man," came across as a battle of wits between the sexes, "Think Like A Man Too" exchanges calculating mind games for what can only be described as an ersatz "Hangover" weighed down by Kevin Hart's sports analogy-laden narration.

"Think Like A Man Too" reunites the gang in Sin City for the wedding of Michael (Terrence Jenkins) and Candace (Regina Hall). Not only does the couple have to deal with Michael's overbearing mother who reserves a room within earshot of them, but Michael has the erratic, shrill-voiced Cedric (Kevin Hart) as his best man due to a misunderstanding. Ready to show Michael the time of his life before he ties the knot, the now-single Cedric, who can't seem to rid himself of the presence of his ex-wife, Gail (Wendy Williams), requests a $40,000 per night hotel room (far above his pay grade) complete with a stripper pole and a wisecracking British butler. Not to be outdone by the guys, the ladies also decide to bask in all the debauchery Las Vegas has to offer. What follows is a night of cocktails, kinky costumes, flirtations with lady luck and incarceration for them all. We even get a cameo from a famous boxer (sound familiar?).

Hart's levity isn't enough to rescue us from the same banal relationship issues that plagued the couples in the first movie. In the battle of the insecure and controlling vs. the selfish and stubborn: Lauren (Taraji P. Henson) and Dominic (Michael Ealy) are navigating career issues; Zeke (Romany Malco) is turning in his "player card" as he wants to shake his "Zeke the Freak" past to prove his loyalty to Mya (Meagan Good); Jeremy (Michael Ferrara) has fatherhood jitters as he and Kristen (Gabrielle Union) try to conceive. Oddly enough, the only lovebirds not experiencing any serious relationship issues are the film's uninteresting, aloof and ill-placed married white couple, Bennett (Gary Owen) and Tish (Wendi McClendon-Covey).

Even with the influence of Harvey's book largely out of the picture here, we still get the message that men are dogs that need to be one-upped by women to even the playing field; however, this time around, competition is centered on the superficial. We are fed scene upon scene of the ladies trying to defy gender stereotypes as to how much or what kind of fun they can have in the adult playground of Las Vegas. Of course, this is not an issue for the guys, as the film's overtones reinforce the notion that boys will be boys. It's almost as if the couples wanted a vacation from each other this time. Gone is the mental chess of the first film, one of the features that made it so attractive.

There are glimmers of hope. The ladies' uniquely placed rendition of Bell Biv Devoe's "Poison" provides a kind of halftime show (and momentary respite from vapidity) for us watching the guys and gals duke it out (a real treat for '90s nostalgic R&B fans). Another pop culture gem involves Hart doing a less graceful, less sexy, but funnier version of Tom Cruise's dance routine from "Risky Business." Finally, there's Bennett and Tish, the film's most sexually repressed couple, trying to reenact a steamy scene from John Singleton's "Baby Boy" (also starring Taraji P. Henson).

Given his steep rise in stock since the release of the first film two years ago, it perhaps shouldn't be a surprise that Hart, now the most popular stand-up comedian in the country, takes center stage here. Though Hart's antics are unmistakably some of the funniest aspects of the film, it's unfortunate that so much of the film's potential is wasted on his self-deprecating humor and spasmodic fits of frustration. Maybe the venue is to blame ... who knows? If there's a third installment, let's do without all the sports metaphors as well, because the proverbial ball was, indeed, dropped this time.

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