“Think Like a Man Too” is a project of Screen Gems and Will Packer Productions, but one suspects that the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority may be a silent partner.
Vegas is “Disneyland for adults” and “the best place in the world for men and women to get their freak on,” asserts the aggressive voice-over supplied by Kevin Hart, the diminutive comic actor whose recent ascension to box-office kingpin is acknowledged by his special billing in the opening credits. The “and Kevin Hart” designation that arrives after a long list of names separates Hart from the rest of the ensemble; so does Hart’s frantic but redundant narration, which very likely was added in post-production, to pump up the actor’s presence and ensure that even establishing shots seem breathless with comic possibility.
A sequel to “Think Like a Man,” a 2012 “relationship comedy” inspired by a self-help best-seller by Steve Harvey, “Think Like a Man Too” reunites director Tim Story (“Barbershop,” “Ride Along”), screenwriters Keith Merryman and David A. Newman and most of the previous movie’s large cast, which is more or less divided into an equal number of men and women.
These actors — Michael Ealy, Taraji P. Henson, Romany Malco, Meagan Good, Jerry Ferrara, Gabrielle Union and so on — arrive as romantic couples but soon split into what Hart calls “opposing teams,” to plan Vegas bachelor and bachelorette parties for their soon-to-be-married friends, Michael (Terrence J) and Candace (Regina Hall).
In charge of the men’s event is best man and self-styled party wild card Cedric (Hart), somehow clueless that the Caesars Palace suite he booked for the weekend — outfitted, per his request, with a stripper pole — rents for $40,000 per night.
Meanwhile, the tokenism here is a reversal of what’s found in most films: Gary Owen is the groom’s pasty, fanny-pack-wearing doofus of a white friend; his timid wife is Wendi McLendon-Covey, who was anything but demure in “Bridesmaids.”
The Sin City location and the “wolf pack” of male stars that motivates much of the action suggest an African-American redux of “The Hangover,” but the PG-13 rating should clue viewers that “Think Like a Man Too” is ultimately more traditional than grotesque, more affirming than threatening, more conservative than outrageous. (Cedric describes his less-than-reckless buddies as a “nontourage” and angrily reminds the groom: “You got the rest of your life to follow this woman around the grocery store.”)
Glossy and slick, the movie is staggering in its efficiency, admirable in its insistence that the women deserve as much screen time as the men, and awe-inspiring as a vehicle of romantic and even career reassurance for moviegoers whose lives are likely less satisfying if less chaotic than those on the screen. Every subplot here ends in the best possible way for the mostly attractive participants, who have dream jobs (sous chef, fashion designer) as well as dream mates. The ladies even get to show off their rap skills in a music-video spoof of “Poison” by Bell Biv DeVoe.
Some might call this corny; others would call it encouraging. Egged on by the in-person presence of Kevin Hart himself, the preview audience at a June 2 screening of “Think Like a Man Too” at the Malco Paradiso absolutely ate the movie up; in fact, in almost 20 years of “professional” movie-watching, I’ve never been part of a louder, more enthusiastic audience. (If crowd response from a single screening were a barometer of box office, “Think Like a Man Too” would outgross “Titanic.”)
The title verb is “Think,” but this movie wants you to feel: The finale includes hugs, tears of happiness and a marriage proposal. In other words, the movie ends with the unspoken promise of “Think Like a Man Three.”