'Ride Along 2'
The 2014 buddy-cop comedy ‘Ride Along’ wasn’t very good. However, it was released in a slow winter movie season to great success. Hollywood logic dictates that’s more than enough to earn a sequel. So now we have one, with a “2” in the title to prove it. Predictably, it’s not very good either.
That said, it’s about as mediocre as the last one, so it could very well prove to be successful again and this franchise could stretch into a trilogy. I sincerely hope that doesn’t happen, but then again I didn’t think ‘Ride Along 1′ would be a hit. I’ve been wrong about this series before and I likely will be wrong again.
Following an oddly straight-laced cold open, we’re introduced to Ice Cube and Kevin Hart in a mild parody of Universal Studios’ (which not coincidentally also produced ‘Ride Along 2’) ‘Fast & Furious’ series, complete with a gratuitous Tyrese cameo. Essentially, it’s just there to set up the ho-hum buddy-cop dynamics of the ‘Ride Along’ pairing again.
Ice Cube is a tough guy cop who scowls his way through the job to success (Yes, Ice Cube is also the guy who wrote “Fuck the Police.” Irony is a beautiful thing). Kevin Hart, meanwhile, is a blabbermouth who wants to be a cop. Or at least he wanted to be a cop in the last movie. Now he is a cop, but he desperately wants to be a detective to keep the limp personality clash comedy train running. He’s also about to wed Cube’s sister (Tika Sumpter), so there’s some awkwardness there.
In fact, Sumpter talks Cube into taking Hart on a trip to Miami right before their wedding. This means the ‘Ride Along’ sequel boasts the blinding beach light of Florida and a whole bunch of montages of bare skin. Beyond that, the flick is just as bound to tedious buddy-cop conventions as the last outing. The duo must question a hacker (Ken Jeong), partner up with Olivia Munn, and get into shenanigans with a potential drug dealer (Benjamin Bratt). It all leads to a bunch of extended improv sessions where Ice Cube gets laughs out of steely silence and looks of disgust while Kevin Hart squeals loudly and engages in slapstick. Everyone else plays for scraps on the laugh pile and whenever the comedy peters out, things get weirdly serious to sneak in an action beat and inch the plot forward. Lather, rinse, repeat. It’s formula filmmaking at its most formulaic.
It’s true that Ice Cube and Kevin Hart have strong chemistry. Their personalities and delivery styles are well suited to play off each other. However, their antics on set were likely funnier than what ended up on screen. Unfortunately, director Tim Story keeps them trapped in simple character types for simple jokes between simple action scenes. Do they transcend that at times? Sure, just not nearly as much as you’d hope.
Ken Jeong is often shoved in the back seat of cars with them, or tags along while they go to new locations to get new plot information. He sneaks in a few laughs as well since he’s always a good third wheel. (See: ‘The Hangover’ movies, ‘Community’, various Apatow productions, etc.) Olivia Munn has shown off some decent comedy chops before, but she’s mostly used as eye candy here. She plays a straight woman to compliment Ice Cube’s straight man routine and feels wasted. When the gunfire and car chases pop up, Story handles them with the same personality-free competence he brought to his forgettable ‘Fantastic Four’ movies. The whole distinctly average production just is what it is.
That’s the thing about both ‘Ride Along’ and ‘Ride Along 2’. They aren’t particularly bad movies. They work just fine. But with a central duo this talented (see the hysterical Conan O’Brian segments that Ice Cube and Kevin Hart have done to promote both flicks for evidence), the movies should be better than merely competent. These two leads should be allowed out of genre conventions to rip free more often, and the filmmakers should have the confidence to hire better scene-stealers in the supporting cast to force the leads to up their game.
Likewise, it would have been nice if the success of ‘Ride Along 1’ could have been parlayed into a bigger budget to pull off more ambitious action sequences this time. Not so much. It’s just more of the same and distinctly average all around. I suppose that’s the exact quality that made the last movie a hit and will likely lead to success yet again. It’s just a shame that the talented folks involved with the flick don’t have higher ambitions than shooting straight for the middle.