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Hart not best man for the job in sequel to ensemble comedy

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Dominic (Michael Ealy, left) and Cedric (Kevin Hart) have a bit too much fun in Screen Gems'

MATT KENNEDY/COURTESY SCREEN GEMS/MCT Enlarge Image

Dominic (Michael Ealy, left) and Cedric (Kevin Hart) have a bit too much fun in Screen Gems' "Think Like a Man Too."

Sequels, as 22 Jump Street joked, are always the same, only worse.

So any pretense of insight into the battle of the sexes and any real connection to standup comic-turned-self-appointed relationships expert Steve Harvey’s book, Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, is long forgotten in Think Like a Man Too, the sequel to the surprise hit of two springs back.

Kevin Hart has become the breakout star of this ensemble, so Too is basically a star vehicle for the Manic Little Man — with Las Vegas as the playground for this Bridesmaids-meets-The Hangover exercise.

This generally mild-mannered comedy sinks or swims on Hart’s back. And as one scene makes clear, Little Man can’t swim.

Our Think Like a Man couples head to Vegas, where Candace (Regina Hall) and Michael (Terrence Jenkins) are getting married.

Cedric (Hart) has been mistakenly been named best man, and is spending every cent he’s got — and then some — for a bachelor party for the ages for Michael, with Dominic (Michael Ealy), Zeke the Freak (Romany Malco), Jeremy (Jerry Ferrara) and Bennett (Gary Owen) along for the ride. Business executive Lauren (Taraji P. Henson) has set up a bachelorette party for Candace, Mya (Meagan Good), Kristen (Gabrielle Union), Tish (Wendi McLendon-Covey) and Sonia (La La Anthony). If only the groom’s overbearing mom (Jenifer Lewis) will let her.

Hart’s Cedric narrates the tale, which feebly grasps at basketball metaphors to keep score as the two ensembles head out into the Sin City night. Cedric nags the groom: "You’ve got the rest of your life... to follow this woman around the grocery store."

And he needles their posse for their lack of party prowess — "I’m sick of this NON-tourage."

Introduce strains in the careers/lives of chef Dominic and workaholic Lauren, baby-making efforts for bossy Kristen and stoner Jeremy, and Cedric’s own "we’re on a break" marriage. Throw in some weak Vegas cameos (Floyd Mayweather, Drake) and assorted overly familiar gambling scenarios, a funny scene where the ladies lip sync to Bel Biv Devoe that is the film’s highlight, and a pretty good brawl in a strip club, and that’s about it.

We’re invited to laugh at the uncle (silky-smooth Dennis Haysbert) brought in to distract Michael’s obnoxious mother, and begged to giggle at the recycled "Never say never in Vegas, baby" zingers.

None of it is fresh, and Hart’s finest moment comes way too early — a no-holds-barred re-creation of Tom Cruise’s underwear dance from Risky Business — to justify building the movie around him.

Maybe the funniest gag is the actual Steve Harvey cameo, a backhanded slap at just how far one comic/radio host/game-show host/author/self-help chat-show counsellor can take selling out. The answer? When your face is on a slot machine.

But if there’s one lesson we and the Think cast and crew can take from 22 Jump Street, it’s that sequels can be exactly the same. They don’t necessarily have to be worse.

— McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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