Broken Hart: The Witless, Deeply Unnecessary ‘Think Like a Man Too’
Once the women in Think Like a Man Too show up in their own music video for Bell Biv DeVoe’s “Poison,” you’re no longer watching a summer movie. You’re witnessing a sequence so incompetent that it must be avant-garde. Before they arrived at this nightclub, they were just a fabulous bachelorette-party gang in an odorous sequel in which most of the scenes last less than a minute and Kevin Hart won’t shut up. But then “Poison” comes on and the women, already atop the bar at the Las Vegas nightplex, get all “That is my jam” and can be heard singing over the track, while the bumper-car camera work and Vitamix editing stumble into the vocabulary of a 112 video.
Suddenly, there are quick shots of Taraji P. Henson, La La Anthony, and Meagan Good writhing on furniture while Regina Hall and Wendi McLendon-Covey make faces into a fish-eye lens as they perform the rap interlude, in which DeVoe confirms the skankiness of the “low pro ho” of the title (she’s poison) with a little firsthand experience: “Me and the crew used to do her.” By this point, most of these women have put one of Gabrielle Union’s husband’s pot strips on their tongues — so it’s possible the subject of this pop classic has slipped their minds. It’s also possible I’m missing a brilliant point, and they’re just obeying the title’s instruction.
When it’s over, a music-video card pops onto the screen with a director credit: Tim Steez. While the ladies party to “Poison,” the movie keeps cutting to split-screen images of Hart trying to win money to pay for his $44,000-a-night room. It’s always one step forward and two back for me with him. In the winter, he and Hall were sexy and funny together in About Last Night. Otherwise, in the movies, he’s a gnat, and the growth of his popularity means more time to buzz around your ears. (Really, he’s Joe Pesci with a flatter stomach.) Still, the makers of this film appear to have hitched their wagon to Hart’s fame. He tried to steal the original movie, but Henson beat him to it. This time around, Henson might get 30 words total.
The plot has Candace (Hall) and Michael (Terrence Jenkins) getting married in Vegas. They’ve invited their friends to join them. His haughty mother (Jenifer Lewis) tries to hijack both the wedding planning and the bachelorette party. Then Dennis Haysbert suavely swoops in and hijacks her. The dubious, best-selling Steve Harvey self-help guide (Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man) that inspired the first movie gave it a rulebook structure. It was a big hit because it was a fun relationship comedy that was full of charismatic black actors being starry and glamorous. You could ignore Harvey’s chauvinistic certitude, and you laughed and swooned at Henson’s high-powered careerist.
Two years later, we’re still being fed ensemble movies with a dozen good actors that don’t let them do enough. Sometimes, it makes sense — as it did with The Best Man Holiday. (Well, the movie made sense, not the title; who, by the way, is naming these sequels?) But here it feels like a pileup. Producer Will Packer has had a lot of commercial success — Ride Along, About Last Night, and these Harvey movies are his. Hart’s become a star with him. Henson and Hall could, too. In the meantime, of the three movies he’s backed so far this year, Man Too somehow surpasses Ride Along as a piece of lazy, lousy comedy. (Both are directed by Tim Story, a.k.a. Tim Steez.)
You feel bad arguing that something like 22 Jump Street suffers from an abundance of misapplied wit when a movie like Think Like a Man Too has none. But Packer doesn’t appear to be that concerned with quality and, judging from the grosses, neither do we. In the long run, quality matters, of course. Yet no one who ends a movie with Hart fighting another character for money that’s rained from an actual Steve Harvey slot machine cares about charges of literalism and redundancy — only getting more.