June 20, 2014 at 1:00 am

Review: 'Think Like a Man Too' gets lost in Vegas

Kevin Hart stars as the best man at a Vegas wedding who is also a self-centered jester and loudmouthed jerk in 'Think Like a Man Too.' (Matt Kennedy / Rainforest Films)

This is how a film can be filled with energy and yet dragged down by its own laziness at the same time.

There’s much to admire about the cast of “Think Like a Man Too,” the quick-turnaround sequel to the 2012 hit inspired by the Steve Harvey book “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man.” It’s a likable and talented group of familiar faces, including but not limited to Kevin Hart, Regina Hall, Michael Ealy, Gabrielle Union, Meagan Good and even Dennis Haysbert and Kelsey Grammer in cameos, and what a shame they don’t share any screen time together.

There’s a lot of dancing and drinking and smooching and singing and laughing and costume-changing and physical comedy at play here. At one point, the movie stops being a movie and becomes a music video — a loopy, stoned-out version of Bell Biv DeVoe’s “Poison,” complete with corner-screen credits at the end of the performance.

OK, A for effort. The problem — and it’s an insurmountable, deadly, comedy-killing, consistent problem throughout — is a tired, uninspired, derivative screenplay that brings everyone to Vegas for a wedding and incorporates nearly every weekend-in-Vegas cliche explored in dozens of previous films. When Hart’s Cedric tells us in voiceover, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” there’s no spin or payoff or interesting take. He just says it as if we’re supposed to pretend that line wasn’t pounded in the ground and given a headstone about a half-dozen years ago.

You want eye-rolling moments? This movie will detach your retinas. Just a few of the moments seemingly borrowed from old movie (and TV sitcom) scripts where everyone goes to Vegas:

■Pool parties where all the other vacationers stop what they’re doing to marvel at and interact with our characters.

■ A desperate character trying to climb out of debt with a run at the blackjack table.

■The all-knowing personal valet who can arrange just about anything you can imagine.

■Accidental drug ingestion!

■Celebrity cameos for the sake of celebrity cameos.

■Overheard conversations galore.

■Let’s get the guys to enter a dance contest so we can laugh at their funny outfits!

If you think I should have issued a SPOILER ALERT before all that, it’s more like I should have slapped a “SPOILED” alert on all those hacky storylines.

Back to that attractive cast. Candace (Regina Hall) and Michael (Terrence J) are getting married, and just about the whole gang has made it to Vegas for the bachelor/bachelorette parties and the subsequent nuptials. What could possibly go right?

Each couple has their own little nugget of a dilemma. Jerry Ferrara’s Jeremy and Gabrielle Union’s Kristen are trying to conceive, but Kristen isn’t convinced Jeremy really wants a baby. Romany Malco’s Zeke is on the verge of committing to Meagan Good’s Mya, but his “Zeke the Freak” past is scaring her off. Michael Ealy’s Dominic will do anything for Taraji P. Henson’s Lauren, but she seems more devoted to her career than to him. (The scene where Dominic learns about a secret Lauren has been keeping is so clumsily handled it’s hilarious. Problem is, it’s not supposed to be hilarious.)

There’s also the matter of Michael’s domineering mother, Loretta, who is a heartless and tone-deaf caricature, treating the wonderful Candace as if she’s poison (hey, cue Bell Biv DeVoe!) to her beloved son. Like almost every other part in “Think Like a Man Too,” the role is underwritten and almost begs to be overplayed. I sometimes had the feeling the actors knew the script was on life support and they were acting their hearts out, thinking, “Don’t you die on me now!” (Argh! Now even the reviewer has been plagued with movie cliches.)

As for Kevin Hart, who has blown up in recent years and become one of the most popular comedians on the planet: This is not a shining moment for him. Yes, his Cedric is supposed to be a self-centered jester, but he’s such a loudmouthed jerk it’s hard to feel for him, and Hart just screeches his lines at volumes ranging from loud to somebody should call the front desk and complain. He pulls off a few gags, but when you’re reduced to wearing a caveman costume and beating male strippers with a big “Flintstones” club, the odds are stacked against you, no matter how much talent and buzz you have going for you.

What happens in Vegas this time around really should have stayed there, and off the big screen.

'Think Like a Man Too'

GRADE: C

Rated PG-13 for crude sexual content including references, partial nudity, language and drug material

Running time: 106 minutes