Ride Along 2 (2016)

The brothers-in-law are back.

In January 2014 Ride Along became an instant box office hit, the predictable (but fun) buddy-cop flick grossing over $150 million worldwide as audiences across the globe fell for the unlikely comic pairing of Ice Cube and Kevin Hart. This inevitable second outing however feels a little rushed and half-baked, falling into the same trap as many other unplanned comedy sequels, all of which are (let’s face it) inferior to their predecessors — see The Hangover Part II (2011) and Meet the Fockers (2004).

When last we saw Ben Barber (Kevin Hart) and quick-tempered detective James Payton (Ice Cube) they were barbecuing together, celebrating the fact that they’d just brought down a multinational crime ring led by the legendary kingpin Omar (played by Laurence Fishburne). Now, one year on, Barber is a hyper-keen veteran Atlanta police officer, who’s about to marry Payton’s sister, Angela (Tika Sumpter). Seeing as Ben is still a trainee on the force, screenwriters Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi (the guy’s responsible for 2013’s R.I.P.D.) have him (once again) ‘tag along’ with James in order to prove himself to the stone-faced detective as the pair head to Miami to question a suspect, a hacker named A.J. (Ken Jeong), concerning the murder of a government figure — it’s pretty much the same set up as the original but with palm trees in the back ground. While in the Sunshine State, the brothers-in-law stumble onto an enormous crime ring run by a respected executive, Antonio Pope (Benjamin Bratt), and (naturally) begin meddling in his affairs, getting themselves into all sorts of mischief and mayhem.

'Daaayumn! I like shot someone with Cube!'
‘Daaayumn! I like shot someone with Cube!’

To be frank, Ride Alone 2 has a couple of major setbacks. For one, there’s just too much ‘plot’ (something about an illegal shipment) — no one wants an intricate storyline here, we just want laughs, so why is Ride Along 2 so convoluted? Secondly, and more importantly though, the film just isn’t that funny — there’s a serious lack of actual jokes here with Ride Along 2 eliciting a couple of chuckles at best — l honestly expected more.

This being the case, returning director Tim Story seems to be riding in cruise control, afraid to shake up the formula. Okay, Story does try to mix things up a bit with a random CGI alligator attack, a video-game car chase sequence (where Ben, an avid gamer, imagines himself inside of a Grand Theft Auto-type scenario) and a gag that sees Ben get smacked in the head by a ceiling fan (actually, the ceiling fan thing is kind of amusing), but there’s barely a decent laugh on offer. It’s as if the entire production team couldn’t come up with any sufficient material to stuff into the film’s 102-minute runtime. Consequentially, what we do have is a bunch of unnecessary setups that lack decent payoffs; for instance there’s a purposeless sequence that sees Jeong’s informant have Hart’s Ben perform a series of useless commands in order to prove that he’s trustworthy, this culminating in Ben having to eat some sloppy nachos from out of the trash, and that’s it. No kicker. No reward. No point.

At least the entire gang is back; Kevin Hart brings his usual motor-mouth persona while Ice Cube brings the ‘cool’ factor, the pair’s palpable chemistry (for the most part) sustaining the otherwise bland script. In terms of new players, The Hangover series’ Ken Jeong is completely wasted as a nerdy hacker who now fears for his life, Benjamin Bratt, Miss Congeniality (2000), plays your typical mustache twirling baddie while a swelteringly hot Olivia Munn, Magic Mike (2012), brings some new blood to the force as Maya Cruz; a stern homicide detective with a no-b.s. exterior (and the boy’s smokin’ hot Miami contact), even if she’s given little to do bar serve as a loose love interest for Cube’s hard-edged James.

'Y'all gotta know good casting when ya see it.'
‘Y’all gotta know good casting when ya see it.’

Depending on your opinion of the first flick, you probably already know whether you’re going to dig this sequel or avoid it like the plague. Any which way, I doubt that Kevin Hart or Ice Cube really need your fifteen or so bucks at this stage of their careers. Be that as it may, if you’re sick of being bombarded by the ‘oh so serious’ pictures that seem to be dominating our screens during the looming awards season, then Ride Along 2 might come as a welcome distraction. Bigger, showier yet not necessarily better, Ride Along 2 feels like a wasted opportunity; Hart’s screeching and Cube’s barking could have done with a flashier second ride.

2 / 5 – Average

Reviewed by Mr. Movie

Ride Along 2 is released through Universal Pictures Australia