Comic Kevin Hart is always amped up. It's his style, and in the last few years, that style has earned him shooting-star status. In "Think Like a Man Too," Hart hits such adrenaline-fueled extremes it's exhausting.
Hart is on, make that ON, day and night as the sprawling group of friends we met in the 2012 adaptation of Steve Harvey's bestselling "Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man" heads to Vegas for a wedding — and the requisite debauched bachelor and bachelorette parties beforehand.
As funny as Hart can be, and there is no doubt he is funny, "Too" is a case of too much Hart.
All of the expected Vegas craziness is there too. The film works through every cliché on its way to the vows: luxe hotel suites, gambling, strip clubs, drinking, more gambling, wedding in jeopardy, jail, bail. But if you can look past the cliches and the comic's high wattage and high-pitched screeching, there are some interesting things going on in the sequel, including its core message that love and marriage really do go together and its code of gender equality.
Sometimes those commitment themes plays out in ridiculous ways — the reflecting-on-life jail scenes do not rock — but there's an underlying sweetness when the couples interact in more normal moments. If only the movie wrapped around those rare romantic interludes were better.
Tim Story is back in the director's chair. In fact, between two "Thinks" and an upcoming sequel to his buddy-cop "Ride Along" featuring Hart and Ice Cube, Story is almost exclusively in the Kevin Hart business these days. Keith Merryman and David A. Newman return as the writers. And there is that ginormous cast, with a something-for-everyone collection of stereotypes all present and accounted for.
Let's start with a roll call and rundown on where things stand. Mama's boy Michael (Terrence Jenkins) is marrying Candace (Regina Hall), the girl of his dreams he met in the first film. Mama, Loretta (Jenifer Lewis), is as terrifying as ever. Lauren (Taraji P. Henson) and Dominic (Michael Ealy) are clearly the power couple. Career opportunities will be their crucible. Mya (Meagan Good) knew Zeke (Romany Malco) was a ladies man, but his reputation in Vegas will put their bond to the test. Jeremy (Jerry Ferrara) and Kristen (Gabrielle Union) are in baby-making mode, and they are beginning to have performance issues.
Cedric (Hart) is still the loose cannon of the bunch. He's Michael's best man and on a 90-day-separation plan from his wife — an explosive combination for someone who always has something to prove.
Though Cedric is a force of nature, Loretta, the future mother-in-law from hell, is too. It's a toss-up which one is wreaking the most havoc, at least on paper. Loretta is resistant to loosening her grip on her son, and in Lewis' hands, it's an iron fist. Helping to loosen it is the arrival of Lauren's Uncle Eddie (Dennis Haysbert). Haysbert, who swoops in working his Teddy Pendergrass baritone, is a welcome distraction.
The look is more polished this time around, the box-office success of the first no doubt padding the budget. Chris Duskin handles cinematography and Chris Cornwell production design. Veteran costume designer Salvador Perez Jr. deserves a special shout-out for Hart's outrageous attire alone. Christopher Lennertz is in charge of the musical jam. Not surprisingly, the soundtrack is hip-hop heavy with tracks from Pitbull, M.C. Hammer and Mary J. Blige, with a little throw-back Sinatra for good measure.
Weirdly, the women's lip sync of Bell Biv DeVoe's "Poison" gets its own music video-esque treatment complete with directing credit, also Story. If it were meant as a joke, it falls flat. Mostly, the movie swings wildly between mania when Hart is on-screen and relative serenity when he's not. It gives the film a multiple-personality feel that does not work in its favor.
In addition to all the on-screen antics, Cedric is the film's narrator, hand-holding us through the Vegas journey as if we couldn't figure out what was going on. The narration is also used to slip in some of the relationship advice that made Harvey's book so winning. Harvey's presence can be felt in other ways as well — his face turns up on the slot machines along with the apples and pears.
But this is the Kevin Hart show, and it's way "Too" much of a good thing.
Twitter: @BetsySharkeyCopyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times