Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: Tim Story

Stars: Ice Cube, Kevin Hart, Olivia Munn, Benjamin Bratt, Tika Sumpter, Ken Jeong, Sherri Shepherd, Bruce McGill, Michael Rose, Carlos Gomez, Eric Goins, Glenn Powell, Arturo del Puerto.

The original Ride Along was another formulaic variation on the odd couple buddy cop genre that has included such superior examples as the Lethal Weapon series, 48 Hours and even the Rush Hour series. The film derived much of its pleasures from the combustible chemistry between the gruff and intense Ice Cube’s veteran detective and the manic, hyperactive stylings of motor-mouthed comic Kevin Hart’s rookie wannabe. And despite receiving lukewarm reviews, it proved popular at the box office, grossing over $300 million.

So here comes the unnecessary sequel. Ride Along 2 is lazy filmmaking, in which screenwriting team of Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi (R.I.P.D., the first Ride Along, etc) mainly rehash key plot ideas from the original. This is a tired and witless action comedy, a tired formula that has been done better.

This sequel takes up the story a couple of years after the original. James Payton (Ice Cube) is still working the mean streets of Atlanta with his partner (Fast & Furious’s Tyrese Gibson in little more than a cameo), while Ben Barber (Hart), his soon to be brother-in-law, has graduated from the police academy and is a rookie cop eager to make detective. Barber is also due to marry James’s sister Angela (Tika Sumpter), and the wedding plans are well advanced.

James busts a local drug dealer, and uncovers a USB device that contains encrypted evidence against a powerful Miami crime figure. James heads off to Miami to learn more. At Angela’s insistence (mainly to get him out of her hair in the lead up to the wedding), James reluctantly takes the aggressively annoying Ben along, hoping that he will screw up and be thrown off the force. James and Ben spend most of the time bickering and bonding.

In Miami they butt up against Antonio Pope (Law & Order‘s Benjamin Bratt), a suave and powerful local businessman who is a pillar of the local community; but he also rules the city’s drug trade and is involved in smuggling drugs, guns and whatever the market demands. James and Ben work with Maya (Olivia Munn, from tv’s The Newsroom, etc), a tough and feisty Miami detective to try and expose Pope and bring him down.

The key to finding the evidence lies with annoying computer hacker AJ (Ken Jeong, from The Hangover series, etc). AJ gives the cops the runaround and engages in a battle of wits with Ben.

Along with the likes of Martin Lawrence, Kevin James and Rob Schneider, Hart is one of the least funny comics working in movies today; indeed his previous two films Get Hard and The Wedding Ringer made my list of the worst films of 2015. His fast talking hyperactive shtick has become tiresome and exhausting rather than funny.

But at least here he has toned down the manic energy a little. And he is not the most annoying character this time around. Those honours are shared by Jeong, another annoying comic, who grates as AJ, who always manages to say inappropriate things, and Sherri Shepherd, who plays the irksome wedding planner. Jeong is wasted here in a role that doesn’t play to his strengths, while a taciturn Cube simply looks disinterested in proceedings as he snarls and grunts on cue. Munn is a welcome presence here, while Bratt seems to be enjoying himself as the somewhat cliched villain of the piece.

The director is Tim Story (The Fantastic Four, etc) who has worked with Ice Cube previously on Barbershop, and with Hart on Think Like A Man and its lacklustre sequel. He seems to be merely going through the motions here. While Ride Along 2 is more action packed than its predecessor, its succession of car chases and shootouts are pretty much stock standard cliches of the genre. Much of the humour this time around seems forced, and the chemistry between the two stars is lacking as well.

But obviously Hart and Cube are riding and laughing all the way to the bank!



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