Only those who watched Ride Along, the buddy cop comedy starring the unlikely duo of Kevin Hart and Ice Cube, and knew there were still so many stories to tell, will feel like the sequel is something that should exist. The first film, if entirely expected, was modestly entertaining, while the follow-up is a listless retread with a few new “wrinkles”—i.e., characters—played by the likes of Ken Jeong and Olivia Munn, though they’re thrown in to little effect.
This time around, Ben Barber (Hart), now a probationary police officer fresh out of the academy, is still marrying the sister of badass, play-by-his-own-rules detective James Payton (Ice Cube). Ben, ever the screw up, desperately wants to be a detective and to prove his worth to his future brother-in-law. Once again, he gets his chance when James has to travel from Atlanta to Miami to track down hacker AJ (Jeong), and the two find themselves embroiled in a criminal conspiracy perpetrated by Antonio Pope (Benjamin Bratt), known to the world as a squeaky-clean businessman.
Ride Along 2 may be dappled with Miami sun and sex appeal—behold so many slow-motion bikini shots ostensibly lifted from the cutting room floor of a Fast & Furious entry—and there may be a few more players on hand, but it is essentially the same movie as its predecessor—which was already formulaic to a fault. Plus any heart or novelty the first film may have feigned is entirely gone this time around, and the script by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi hits every single one of the same tired genre clichés expected from a big studio comedy. Ride Along 2 simply plugs interchangeable parts into an established formula: small children schooling adults; Kevin Hart in embarrassing situations; foot chase, car chase, shootout, repeat.
In the original Ride Along, between Hart’s bouts of mania, Ben was an earnest character chasing his dream of being a cop in order to take care of his fiancé. Now Ben is only a tightly wound little dude, annoying but also dangerously inept—in his first scene, apparently not long after receiving formal police training, he gets James’ partner, played by Tyrese Gibson, shot. For his part, Cube may as well be sleepwalking here, never deviating from his tough guy stance—hell, he hardly ever takes off his sunglasses.
Nearly every scene is motivated by Ben saying or doing something stupid—and we’re talking the type of stupid that only people in movies ever pull off—and the Brothers-In-Law, a phrase that will make you want to claw your eardrums out, have to figure a way out of each fresh mess. Which was tolerable in the first Ride Along, with its manic, off-the-cuff feel, because director Tim Story seemed to let Hart cut loose to fill in gaps, but everything by comparison in Ride Along 2 is forced and stale, even restrained.
The new cast brings relatively little to the table. Jeong’s hacker nerd jokes are almost shockingly rote. Munn is used more as eye candy than for her comedy chops, playing a relatively straight Miami detective who teams up with Ben and James; the latter likes her because she’s as tough and surly as he is. Bratt has some fun playing the slick drug lord, is at moments even delightfully self-aware, but the role eventually devolves into a stock bad guy spiel.
Ben is, of course, still an avid gamer who goes by the online moniker Black Hammer, and Story and the script pepper Ride Along 2 with references: Again, Ben’s Call of Duty knowledge proves to be a worthwhile asset on the streets. When a car chase turns into a Grand Theft Auto-style animated affair, it’s a distracting stylistic flourish, out of step with anything else in the movie. Worse, it looks like it came from a second rate, ten-year-old racing game. Let this one example be representative of everything else around it—the whole film amounts to one tossed-off idea after another.
Director: Tim Story
Writers: Phil Hay, Matt Manfredi
Starring: Kevin Hart, Ice Cube, Olivia Munn, Ken Jeong, Benjamin Bratt, Tika Sumpter
Release Date: January 15, 2016