Ride Along 2 (2016) / Comedy-Action
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for sequences of violence, sexual content, language and some drug material
Running Time: 101 min.
Cast: Ice Cube, Kevin Hart, Ken Jeong, Olivia Munn, Benjamin Bratt, Tika Sumpter, Sherri Shepherd, Bruce McGill
Cameo: Tyrese Gibson
Director: Tim Story
Screenplay: Phil Hay, Matt Manfredi
Review published January 16, 2016
The first Ride Along became an unexpected hit in January of 2014, racking up over $130 million on a $25 million budget. The makers of Ride Along 2 attempt to see if lightning will strike twice by releasing their obligatory follow-up during the same weekend of release two years later, but this time, it's going off of name recognition for the franchise more so than in garnering big laughs. Two years and what seems about two-dozen films later, Kevin Hart (Get Hard, The Wedding Ringer) may have run out of funny ad-libs, even if his energy level is still sky high. Along with Ice Cube's (The Book of Life, 22 Jump Street) shtick seemingly just sneering 95% of the time and then showing a softer side by the end, there's really nothing new to see here this go around.
We pick up not long after the first entry with Hart's character, Ben Barber, now a probationary officer for the Atlanta Police Department. He's just a little over a week away from marrying his beloved fiancée Angela (Sumpter, Get On Up), sister of his former reluctant partner-in-crime-fighting James Payton. Once again, James finds himself in a situation in which he decides to take Ben as a partner in order to embarrass him by showing just how over his head he will be in dealing with real dangerous criminals, as the two head out to Miami for a 'milk run' to gain information that will lead to taking down Antonio Pope (Bratt, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2), an influential businessman who is also murderous big-time drug kingpin who is controlling the flow of narcotics between the two cities. Teaming up with a bravado Miami detective named Maya (Munn, Mortdecai), as well as A.J. (Jeong, The DUFF), Pope's computer hacker-turned-informant, it's up to James to get his man and keep his future brother-in-law alive long enough to see his wedding day.
Without much new to add to the formula, it's a bit of a slog to get through 101 minutes of Ride Along 2, mostly because it's entirely devoid of the big laughs you're hoping for from the team-up of Cube and Hart. Whatever their comic interplay might have produced must have evaporated after their first pairing, as screenwriters Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi continue to lengthen their IMDB filmographies with a whole lot of junky scripts that include not only both Ride Along films, but also Aeon Flux, the remake of Clash of the Titans, and R.I.P.D. The problem is that serious actioners like Aeon Flux and Clash of the Titans seemingly have about as many laughs as their straight comedies, i.e. none. Director Tim Story (Think Like a Man, Think Like a Man Too), whose own track record can brag little better, does nothing here except to keep the explosions always booming, cars frequently smashing, bikini models increasingly on the screen, and music video-style editing lively as the hip-hop jams on the soundtrack persistently play to transition from scene to scene.
The film here seems to be cribbing extensively from the Lethal Weapon series now, including the addition of a Leo Getz-like annoying third wheel in A.J., and a Lorna Cole-like kick-ass female to match up with the boldness quotient of James Payton in Maya. Kevin Hart does what he often does in comedies that feed him no funny or clever lines in the script, which is to look constipated while talking faster and louder, hoping that speed and volume in delivery will generate laughs in the absence of quality comedic dialogue. Ice Cube does a whole lot of glowering and punching, which isn't very exciting, only offering some empathy because he seems as equally vexed by having to hear Hart prattle as we are.
The first Ride Along was already a derivative buddy comedy, offering the same formula we've seen countless times before, but at least had a new pairing of the leads to sell it, which made some people take a chance that there could be some funny scenes they might generate along the way. The result was a mediocre but watchable comedy, generally passable for a diversion for those people looking to get out of the cold in January. Ride Along 2 regurgitates the identical formula from the first film, but now we've already seen that Cube and Hart's patter will only yield middling laughs, and the new additions of a South Beach setting, bland eye candy love interest in Olivia Munn (her name is Maya Cruz -- is she really playing a Latina?), Benjamin Bratt doing a bad Ricardo Montalban impression, and the increasingly grating comic-relief antics of Ken Jeong are not enough to jump-start the film into anything that makes you wish you could see more of them. When you have a vehicle that's completely out of gas, creatively, asking us to ride along again just doesn't seem like a very fun proposition.
©2016 Vince Leo