What happens in Vegas no longer stays in Vegas. STDs alone proved that, but additionally, the outsized success of The Hangover series has all but guaranteed that every fledgling comedy franchise will now relocate to the Strip for a follow-up installment. The result? A ton of watered-down debaucheries that have no business crashing Nomi Malone’s stomping grounds. Case in point, Think Like a Man Too, the follow-up to the moderately surprising moderate-sized 2012 hit, which took as its source of inspiration perpetually bewildered Family Feud host Steve Harvey’s relationship manual Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man. Aimed at women, the book seemed to suggest through its title that the key to making relationships work between women and men is for each side to try a little gender-straddling empathy. But in actuality, the book preached the opposite, urging women to demand men put a ring on it and, thereafter, be the man of the house: “Set an example for this boy, who needs to see what real men do, and for this girl, who needs to know what a real man is so she can find one of her own someday.”
That this retrograde “straight talk” somehow managed to emerge on screen as a reasonably genial ensemble comedy speaks to the strength of its performers, most notably cross-eyed motor mouth Kevin Hart, one-time Oscar nominee Taraji P. Henson, and the Scary Movie series’s underrated Regina Hall. In the first film, Harvey’s positions were elaborated through a number of relationship test cases, and even if the rules of the love game were undeniably rigged, at least the whole package could coast on whatever charge its pseudo-anthology structure afforded. Think Like a Man Too cashes in that advantage by shuffling the whole cast like a disinterested blackjack dealer, gathering them together to attend the wedding of two characters who could’ve easily been chosen at random, and loosing them all onto a now hopelessly forever PG-13 Sin City as each respective gender competes to see which group can throw a wilder party. (Why do these movies constantly claim bachelor/bachelorette parties always take place the actual night before the wedding?)
Mostly gone is the novelty of each character’s originally designated archetype, with the notable exception of Terrence J’s “Mama’s Boy” groom trying to keep his fiancée from killing her mouthy future mother-in-law, and Hart’s “E.L.E. Bro” best man racking up a $40,000 bill in the name of impressing the clique he subconsciously must think is on the cusp of leaving him behind for their respective women. It’s not that the movie is without its pleasures, it’s just that they’re so resolutely random and isolated, as when the bachelorettes’ visit to a club on ladies’ night somehow blooms into an ornate music video cover of Bell Biv DeVoe’s “Poison” (complete with a clip-identifying title a la Naked Gun). And while it’s almost accidentally a step in the right direction to introduce some situational parity between the sexes this time around (Las Vegas, as it turns out, is nothing more than a safe zone where adults who are scared to grow up can get one more desperate taste of irresponsible amusement), there’s very little thinking in Think Like a Man Too.