Tim Story and his writers have tossed out the rule book in their “Think Like a Man” sequel, and it’s a good thing, too. The original film didn’t so much adapt Steve Harvey’s guide for women (“Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man”) as provide a two-hour plus trailer for the best-selling book, interrupted now and then by flat and offensive comedy narrated non-stop by hyperactive squeeze-toy Kevin Hart. True, the stereotypes remain in “Think Like a Man Too,” but the actors get a chance to bring them to life, and I even found myself warming to, or at least occasionally laughing at, Hart’s relentlessly clownish shtick.
Not that the Harvey-free narrative can claim much originality — it has stolen from so many recent films that it’s tempting to think of it as meta-movie, a deconstruction of every comedy that has been remotely successful over the past few years — “Bridesmaids,” “The Hangover,” “The Best Man Holiday,” and just about every film that uses a variation of the line “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” That doesn’t leave much room for the grating product placement seen in “Think Like a Man.”
It also pretty much discards the book’s demeaning character labels (which sound weirdly like names in “Game of Thrones”), though vestiges remain. As with Michael, “the Mama’s Boy” (Terrence J) who has been able to stretch the cord enough to head to Las Vegas to marry Candace, “the Single Mom” (Regina Hall), but not enough to keep his imperious mother Loretta (Jenifer Lewis, reprising her role in “Baggage Claim”) from tagging along. Their wedding party includes Dominic “the Dreamer” (Michael Ealy), who copes with the independence of Lauren “the Woman Who Is Her Own Man” (Taraji P. Henson), and vice versa. There’s also Mya “the 90 Day Rule Girl” (Meagan Good) and Zeke “the Player” (Romany Malco), who are still counting down those 90 days; Jeremy “the Non-Committer” (Jerry Ferrara) and Kristen “the Girl Who Wants the Ring” (Gabrielle Union); and Bennett “the Happily Married Man” (Gary Owen) and his nerdy wife Tish (Wendi McLendon-Covey), the white couple who will never be cool.
The boys and girls split off into bachelorette and bachelor parties, with misadventures including a strip club, the unwitting ingestion of cannabis, a stint in jail, and antics in the casino, all overseen by the manic homunculus Cedric (Hart). The gags get laughs but also evoke a sense of déjà vu. Though not nearly as much fun as an underrated gem like “Bachelorette,” “Think Like a Man Too” vastly surpasses the septic “The Hangover Part III.” If Story and company keep thinking like filmmakers, maybe three will be the charm.Peter Keough can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.