It's easy to understand why Universal Pictures would want to revisit the bromantic coupling of Ice Cube, enjoying a bit of a resurgence thanks to the success of Straight Outta Compton, and funnyman Kevin Hart, who somehow manages to make everyone around him a whole lot funnier. While far from a comedy classic, the original Ride Along was a fresh and funny film with some decent zingers and some truly laugh out loud moments.
Ride Along 2, on the other hand, is an unimaginative retread with a script by Matt Manfredi and Phil Hay that seems to lack any insight into what actually made the original film popular. Ride Along 2 has a bigger budget, but it seems like they've used most of that budget for slo-mo, formulaic action sequences that begin, in an irritating fashion, in the film's opening credits sequence and never let up.
The action switches from Atlanta to Miami. Hart's Ben Barber is now a rookie cop a week away from his marriage to Angela (Tika Sumpter), the sister of James Payton (Ice Cube), the veteran detective whose permanent scowl seems to indicate that today has definitely not been a good day. The story, and I use that term lightly here, centers around a respected Miami businessman (Benjamin Bratt) who may not be quite as respectable as everyone thinks.
To their credit, both Kevin Hart and Ice Cube are game here despite being saddled with humor vastly inferior to that in Ride Along and despite a script that never really gives anyone the chance to truly cut loose.
I mean, seriously, when was the last time Ken Jeong wasn't allowed to be funny?
Kevin Hart is funny here, though his humor is muted by the film's numerous implausibilities and actions, especially by Ben, that are so outrageously constructed that they pull you out of the action. We're expected to buy into the notion that Hart's Ben has made it all the way through the police academy yet has an approach to police work that is juvenile at best and primed for litigation at worst.
Manfredi and Hay, who also penned the Razzie worthy R.I.P.D., have taken a copy and paste approach that lacks both intelligence and inspiration and leads to comedy bits that feel half-baked and incomplete. Ice Cube, whose acting range consists of "scowl" and "half-scowl" serving as an indication of warmth, has always had a gift for finding films that work within his limited range. It's hard not to get the feeling that about halfway through Ride Along 2, both Hart and Ice Cube figured out that things just weren't working and everything from then on feels like we're coasting to the finish.
Horrible? Not at all. It's simply a shame to see a talented guy like Kevin Hart saddled with material that doesn't begin to live up to his immense comic range. The guy is funny, intelligent, likable and frenzied. Why can't anyone seem to capture that on film?
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic