Ride Along 2

Posted by Joel Copling on January 14, 2016

Even in spite of its many limitations, at least 2014's "Ride Along" had the basic novelty of chemistry between its lead actors. Ice Cube might perform nearly every role with a scowl (here combined with a constant and understandable look of confusion), and Kevin Hart's schtick as a fast-talking teller of wise-cracks might appear to be permanent. But at least the film took advantage of that potential, even as there wasn't much of it elsewhere. Its sequel turns its back on even this central chemistry. Elsewhere, there is a deflated sense of no ambition in the screenplay by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi or in the flat staging by director Tim Story. "Ride Along 2" is a pretty bad movie, but it only manages not to be worse than it is by being bad in an entirely uninteresting way.

First, there's the distinct feeling that nothing here has significantly changed in the unspecified time between this film and its predecessor. Ben Barber (Hart), the wise-cracking officer who stands at five feet and four inches tall, is still a step away from being married, and James Payton (Cube), the scowling detective whose constant refrain is to be annoyed by Ben's every act, is still a step away from being his brother-in-law. The detective's sister, Angela (Tika Sumpter), still looks visibly bored (or perhaps that's the actress, who sinks in a strangely written role that relegates her to being submissive to everyone around her).

The wedding is closer, to be fair. At the point our current story starts, in fact, it's a week away, and Ben is called out to Miami with James to trail Antonio Pope (Benjamin Bratt), a smuggler of everything under the sun who has the local government on his payroll, with the help of homicide detective Maya (Olivia Munn) and one of Pope's goons, A.J. (Ken Jeong). The plot or what there is of one is basically a clothesline on which to hang gags (which include police brutality, racial appropriation, and A.J.'s strange tests of Ben's loyalty, such as eating hair-strewn nachos out of the trash) and set-pieces (such as a tired climax set among shipping crates and a more inspired chase scene in which Ben hallucinates that it's from an X-BOX game he plays).

The actors all look to be in varying levels of discomfort. Beyond Sumpter's clear disinterest, Cube and Hart look as if they can barely stand each other, and Munn's role is frankly bizarre in that her character is constantly hinted to be involved in Pope's scheme (The first film also ran into this problem when it came to James and Ben's lieutenant, played here again by a wasted Bruce McGill). No one else makes any sort of impression, unless one counts Bratt's hilarious-in-all-the-embarrassingly-wrong-ways turn as our main heavy. In fact, nothing in "Ride Along 2" makes any impression: The characters take a single step on the staircase of character development, the plot jogs in place for 101 minutes, and then it exits the memory banks upon the viewer exiting the theater.

Film Information

Ice Cube (James Payton), Kevin Hart (Ben Barber), Tika Sumpter (Angela Payton), Benjamin Bratt (Antonio Pope), Olivia Munn (Maya), Ken Jeong (A.J.), Bruce McGill (Lt. Brooks), Michael Rose (Gates), Sherri Shepherd (Cori).

Directed by Tim Story and written by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi.

Rated PG-13 (violence, sexual content, language, drug material).

101 minutes.

Released on January 15, 2016.