PARTY OVER HERE: Wild surprises abound, but the story falls flat in this middling sequel.
It's tricky to set a film in Las Vegas; the cliched, party-animal destination almost always upstages the story. Small wonder that the sun-kissed hotspot ends up nabbing the spotlight in the slight if sexy, frequently humorous but ultimately meat-thin follow-up to the 2013 box-office hit Think Like A Man, loosely based on the Steve Harvey bestseller of the same title. It's the picturesque setting that appeals the most here, not the story or the (lukewarm) acting performances.
With unmistakable echoes of Sex & the City 2, Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married Too and last December's fiercely entertaining Best Man Holiday, the ensemble dramedy reintroduces us to its four attractive Black couples trying to get it right in their relationships and move to a higher plane.
Criss (Gabrielle Union) and Jeremy (Jerry Ferara) desperately want to become parents; Maya (Meagan Good) and Zeke "the Freak" (Romany Malco) face trust issues; the career-driven Lauren (Taraji P. Henson) and erstwhile chef Dominic (Michael Ealy) must choose between lucrative new job offers and their blossoming affair. Then there's Candace (Regina Hall) and mama's boy Michael (Terrence J), the hopeless romantics who give the movie its schmaltzy core.
As it happens, the gang is in Vegas for Candice and Michael's wedding weekend, but before the bridal party can take the trip down the aisle, there's the pool-hanging, the casino gambling, the strip club-hopping and the Kevin Hart-orchestrated shenanigans to get through - all of which combine to lend the Tim Story-directed flick its manic energy.
Sadly, where the movie boasts exuberance and spirit, it comes up short in coherence and emotional depth. But the cast is having so much fun that I doubt anyone even notices. The momentum hits a riotous climax with a dizzying club-set music-video-in-a-movie bit that stylishly pays homage to the heady era of 90s R&B. It's a cool, surprising addition.
Jennifer Lewis (back as Michael's disapproving ma) and Dennis Haybert (Candace's veteran player of an uncle who puts the mack moves on her) bring some maturity to the cast.
While the first Think Like A Man impressively explored the give and take in the eternal battle of the sexes, this time around the emphasis is on looking good and cutting loose in anything-goes Las Vegas. To be sure, it's a wild rumpus of a sequel that, though cheekily entertaining in parts, squanders a valuable opportunity to raise the bar set by its original. Tyrone's Verdict: B