The 2014 hit “Ride Along” was a derivative addition to the buddy-cop comedy canon. But it was entertaining enough to provide a much-needed reprieve from the ultra-serious dramas of Academy Awards season.
That makes “Ride Along 2” a retread of a retread. The movie follows a path nearly identical to the original’s, even reusing some of the gags. Were writers Phil Hay and Mike Manfredi — also known for the painful “R.I.P.D.” — paid to cut and paste?
Ice Cube and Kevin Hart return as odd couple James and Ben. Since we last saw them, Ben has quit his job as a high school security guard and become a police officer. He also has gotten engaged to James’s sister, Angela (Tika Sumpter). Ben aspires to one day become a detective, just like his walking scowl of a future brother-in-law.
The week before the wedding, James has to take a trip to interview a suspect in a drug case, and, to get her fiance out of her hair, Angela begs James to let Ben tag along. And so the action moves from Atlanta to Miami, which gives director Tim Story ample opportunities to capture women in thong bikinis showing off underboob.
After getting assaulted by cleavage, the two land on an even bigger case, involving shady businessman Antonio Pope (Benjamin Bratt). To take him down, James and Ben team with Maya (Olivia Munn), Miami P.D.’s hottest, and hacker A.J. (Ken Jeong). You know what happens next: discoveries and setbacks, a few chases, some shootouts, an explosion or two.
The plot is paint by numbers, which puts pressure on the comedy to deliver. But it doesn’t. Hart and Cube can be very funny; we know that from watching them ridicule a student driver on “Conan.” In the movie, though, the jokes are sparse and half-baked. An accidental shooting was mildly amusing in the first “Ride Along,” but when it happens again, we sense laziness at work. As always, Hart unleashes his manic energy on the audience, but his heart doesn’t seem to be in it the way it was in the original. Maybe he’s getting tired of the shtick, too.
The action, on the other hand, is impressive. In the movie’s first minutes, a car chase inside a garage uses sporadic slow motion to stylish effect. During another high-speed pursuit, the action transforms into Ben’s favorite video game; even James becomes a pixelated character. The choice is both hilarious and useful, with a sidebar that shows how fast the car is traveling and where the bad guys are. Moments like that offer some indication of what the movie might have been had if a little more thought gone into making it good rather than making it merely exist.
The original movie kick-started Universal Pictures’ year with a worldwide take of $150 million. What studio wouldn’t want to replicate that success?
But put in that context, “Ride Along 2” starts to look like nothing more than a blatant cash grab during the January dead zone.
PG-13. At area theaters. Contains sequences of violence, sexual content, strong language
and some drug material. 101 minutes.