Think Like a Man Too

By on June 21, 2014
think-like-a-man-2

The original “Think Like a Man” was a “surprise” hit back in 2012, grossing nearly $100 million worldwide, and proving once and for all that a movie with a predominately African-American cast could be a box office smash. So, naturally, Hollywood responded by flooding the marketplace with similar such films, right? Not so much.

Despite the fact that Tyler Perry’s films, which play to a primarily black audience, have reaped big business to the tune of millions of dollars- Forbes named him the highest paid man in show business in 2011- and that, time and again, films with a focus on African-Americans have proven highly successful, when it comes to such audiences, Hollywood remains clueless. You’d think they’d have gotten the point by now, but let’s face it, Hollywood also thinks that women aren’t a key force in the marketplace, either, so what do they know?

What Hollywood doesn’t get, the African-American filmmakers and stars understand. That’s how Perry has quietly amassed a not-so-small fortune, and why stars like Kevin Hart (who’s already hit it big twice at the box office twice this year, with “Ride Along” and “About Last Night,” both of which feature predominately African-American casts), Samuel L. Jackson (who’s appeared in several of the highest-grossing franchises of all time), Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman and Jamie Foxx continue to pack them in at the movies- and not just with black audiences, either.

Still, Hollywood might be slow on the uptake, but they’re not stupid, which is why we’re getting “Think Like a Man Too,” the somewhat belated sequel to the 2012 hit. As per usual, this being a sequel and all, it’s bigger if not necessarily better, with a tried-but-true Vegas setting and a plot revolving around a pre-wedding fiesta with the bachelors in one corner and the bachelorettes in the other. Hey, it worked for the “Hangover” movies, right?

Romany Malco, Jerry Ferrara, Gary Owen, Kevin Hart, Michael Ealy, and Michael Terrence try and bring the funny in "Think Like a Man Too." Courtesy of imdb.com

Romany Malco, Jerry Ferrara, Gary Owen, Kevin Hart, Michael Ealy, and Michael Terrence try and bring the funny in “Think Like a Man Too.”
Courtesy of imdb.com

Indeed, the film could halfway serve as a travelogue for Vegas and why it’s the best vacation destination ever. Between the get-rich-quick promises of big money in the casinos to the wild nights at the clubs to the sweeping grandeur of the jaw-droppingly opulent suites, Vegas has something for every adult, and nowadays, with all the theme park-style rides and the like, something for the whole family, too. Vegas: it’s not just for players anymore!

Beyond that, what we have here is basically a mainly African-American variation of, yes, “The Hangover,” only with some “Bridesmaids”-style antics for the ladies thrown in for good measure, down to the addition of one of that film’s main cast, Wendi McLendon-Covey, as Tish, the wife of original cast member Gary Owen, aka Bennett. The film revolves around the impending nuptials of Michael (Terrence J) and Candice (Regina Hall), and how it directly and indirectly affects everyone else.

The original film was based on talk show host and stand-up comedian Steve Harvey’s best-selling book “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man,” and was somewhat hemmed in by its source material, which painted the “types” in arguably too broad strokes, i.e. “the mama’s boy,” “the single mom,” “the girl who wants a ring,” “the player,” “the non-committer,” et al. As these are basically archetypes- or some might say, stereotypes- the film dealt a lot in clichés, but thankfully, the cast was so winning and likable that audiences mostly didn’t care.

The sequel, thankfully, doesn’t get bogged down in all of that, and as such, goes off-book for the most part, and it is for the better, ultimately. Because it doesn’t have to twist itself to bend to the “rules” of the book and the archetypes the book set forth, it has a much breezier, lightweight tone than the original film. We already know most of these characters, so there’s no need to set them up like in the first film. Hell, even if you didn’t see the first film, it’s not exactly rocket science figuring out who falls into what category.

The plus side is, the film zips along its merry way at a nice pace, and though, at just over an hour and forty-five minutes, it falls prey to the long-winded comedy issue that plagues so many films of this nature these days; at least it’s never boring and doesn’t quite overstay its welcome. In fact, ironically, even with this expanded running time, the film’s major issue is that, with so many characters to deal with, it can’t help but give them short shrift by default. Factor in the rising star of Kevin Hart, who has much more to do here than anyone else by far, and you’ve got even less time for some characters than in the first movie.

Another plus is that, the film is so well-cast that you feel like you know these people, so maybe you don’t need that much time spent on character development after all. If the first one was a bit exposition heavy and spent too much time defining characters by the standards set forth in the book, this one bypasses all that and just assumes you know all that and just want to spend more time with these characters, which is not an unsafe assumption. They are likable characters, and it is fun spending time with them. You really don’t need much more drama than you already get from knowing their back-story and how it affects them under these circumstances, and even if you don’t know, the film is broad enough in its characterization that you get the general idea.

The lovely ladies of "Think Like a Man Too": Regina Hall, Taraji P. Henson, Gabriel Union, La La Anthony and Meagan Good. Courtesy of imdb.com

The lovely ladies of “Think Like a Man Too”: Regina Hall, Taraji P. Henson, Gabriel Union, La La Anthony and Meagan Good.
Courtesy of imdb.com

Are any number of these actors and actresses capable of more? Of course. Michael Ealy was great on the underrated TV shows “Almost Human” and “Common Law,” Romany Malco was charming on “Weeds,” I adore Meagan Good for her scream queen roles (i.e. “Saw V,” “Venom”) and quirky indies like “Brick” and “D.E.B.S.” and Regina Hall for her amusing turns in the “Scary Movie” franchise. Even Hart showed unexpected depth in “About Last Night” and we already know that Taraji P. Henson can knock it out of the park, as evidenced by her past Oscar nod (“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”) and excellent roles in “Hustle & Flow” and “Smokin’ Aces.”

So, great cast, undeniably, to say nothing of bit parts from Dennis Haysbert (“24”), Cheryl Hines “(Curb Your Enthusiasm”), Adam Brody (“The O.C.”), Kelsey Grammer (“Frazier”), and Janina Gavankar (“True Blood”), who all have their moments. But could they all do better? Definitely.

“Think Like a Man Too” isn’t bad, by any means. It hits all the right comedic beats, and makes time for the occasional dramatic moment, especially towards the end. In the end, like many comedy sequels, it’s mostly sound and little fury, as they say. You get more comedy; a bigger, more exciting locale; and lots of cameos and so forth. It’s not at all a bad time at the movies, if you keep your expectations low, but it could have been better if they’d pared things down somewhat to let the characters breathe more.

I’m happy that movies like this, with a largely African-American cast, are getting the green light these days more than ever before. Now if Hollywood could just set their sights on making them better, maybe we’d really have something. If you keep your expectations low, you’ll have a great time with “Think Like a Man Too,” and as such, it earns a low-end B-, but all concerned can do better, and no doubt will at some point. And for that, I’m eternally grateful, even if the film has to settle for being merely adequate- as does Hollywood when it comes to minorities in film.

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About Mark Trammell

Mark Trammell is the resident entertainment critic at UAB, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he is also a Graduate Student and does a vid-cast movie review show. He is a life-long fan of films and has a pretty whacked-out, all-over-the-place movie collection that would give most sane people pause. He loves horror movies and Disney flicks and isn't entirely sure there is a difference. He one day hopes to put his money where his mouth is and inflict his own perverse vision on society, entirely so that he can tell people who ask: "If you think you can do better, why don't you make a movie yourself?" to shut up.
 
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