Synopsis – As his wedding day approaches, Ben heads to Miami with his soon-to-be brother-in-law James to bring down a drug dealer who’s supplying the dealers of Atlanta with product.
My Take – Before I express my exact views on this film, I got to make it clear – I love Kevin Hart & his brand of comedy! This sequel rides along on whether or not Kevin Hart’s brand of funny works for you. This is a Kevin Hart vehicle through and through, and director Tim Story — working with Hart a fourth time, after the first “Ride Along” and two “Think Like a Man” movies — knows it’s best to just wind him up and let him go. With the same brand of silliness and a bit more creativity than the original, the film doesn’t pretend to be anything more than what it is: a sequel designed to offer a second helping of exactly what worked the first time around. The original topped the box office for three straight weeks when it opened in January 2014, collecting $150 million returns on its modest $25 million budget. The original saw Cube as James Patton, a hard-boiled detective of few words, pressured by his sister Angie (Tika Sumpter) to take her boyfriend Ben (Hart) along for a ride, on which disastrous capers, and some unlikely detective work, ensued. Hart is goofy and slapstick; Cube is stern and annoyed. Producers reprise the formula and return to many of the original film’s artists for the sequel, including screenwriters Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi and director Tim Story (Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer). It’s a good role for Hart. As Ben Barber, a nerdy gamer who’s now a probationary officer with the Atlanta police department, Hart is wide-eyed, sincere and always aiming to please. There’s nothing cynical or sarcastic about him, and his optimistic worldview accentuates the best in Hart’s manic, fast-talking style. By the end, it’s most likely you’ll be laughing at the antics of the bite-sized comic — whose style is reminiscent of an over-enthusiastic puppy nipping at your ankles — even if you’re not sure why. This is why Ice Cube is the perfect audience proxy as Hart’s tough and taciturn counterpart; while he initially wants to bat the irritating pup away, Hart’s persistence and moxie are difficult to resist.
The story takes place a year after the original film ended & follows Ben (Kevin Hart), now a fresh graduate of the police academy & just a week away from his wedding to Angela (Tika Sumpter). He’s still trying to impress her brother, James (Ice Cube), who still can’t stand him. James heads for parts south after a “Fast and the Furious”-style opener, in which he uncovers a mysterious USB drive from a drug dealer with a hacker’s calling card leading him Miami. After getting James new partner (Tyrese Gibson) shot, you can guess who begs to go along for the ride again. In South Beach, James and Ben link up with hacker AJ (Ken Jeong), and another tough homicide cop Maya Cruz (Olivia Munn). They make an odd foursome, with Ben and AJ bonding over their nerdy hobbies, and Maya and James sharing a similarly serious approach (“It’s like watching rams mate,” Ben spits in disgust). Jeong makes a surprisingly good foil for Hart — the two comedians both subvert the stereotypes of their outward appearances — balancing the qualities that make them less-than-macho with over-the-top braggadocio and ego. AJ the hacker turns out to quite the ladies man, and Ben has no qualms embracing his feminine side, whether it’s in his overzealous wedding planning or his choice of undergarment. The plot itself is run-of-the-mill cop comedy stuff, with Benjamin Bratt delivering the villain role as a suave Miami heavyweight who’s smuggling drugs and other contraband. Since this is a buddy-cop movie, it wouldn’t be complete without car chases and explosions, and the fancy rides and fireworks in the sequel that reflect the film’s larger budget. There’s ample eye candy in the form of bikini-wearing women, glamorous Miami settings and sleek sports cars, including a breathtaking baby-blue Jaguar. The most playful sequence involves that car and special effects that transform a real street chase into what looks like a video game. The story beats are well-trodden, the action sequences and visual effects nothing more than serviceable, if chaotic, but there’s fun to be had in this film thanks to Hart and Jeong, who play fast and loose with the tropes. All Ben wants is to prove himself as a cop and a brother, but he doesn’t feel the need to change anything about his metrosexual nerd persona, finding strength in it.
All those hours of video games somehow pay off. Cube and Hart’s first scene together in the film sets itself up perfectly for bait-and-switch parody. It takes place at an after-hours gathering of criminals and muscle cars, and by hiring Tyrese Gibson for a cameo as Cube’s partner, the movie clearly evokes the Fast And Furious series. The film even comes from the same studio, which should give the movie the permission to goof on Vin Diesel’s passion project. But director Tim Story, who has made a career of being asked back for sequels to movies he didn’t direct particularly well (oddly, he hasn’t directed any of the sequels to his best film, Barbershop), doesn’t do spoofery. He doesn’t even do humorous imitation. The movie nods ever so slightly at the Furious movies, dispatches Tyrese, and moves on. Even though Hart seems to be copying the Eddie Murphy template as the movie places it back into the “Beverly Hills Cop” formula doesn’t mean this film doesn’t have its moments. Ben is still pretty manic in his approach to policing, but he’s more of a threat to himself than he is to society, and James is still highly skeptical of Ben’s potential, but they do start to jell a little this time around. They both have the ability to make us laugh (as does Jeong)! The actors deliver, just as in the last movie and others where they play similar roles. Cube is predictably tough and snarly, making Hart seem even more smiley and animated by contrast. He eats up the camera in every scene. Everything else is a side dish, though Ken Jeong amuses as a sex-crazed hacker and Sherri Shepherd is over the top as an obsessive wedding planner. Olivia Munn looks drop dead gorgeous & gets in on the action scenes and also performs a sultry dance with Benjamin Bratt, who by the way is menacing as the villain. but Sumpter is given little to do. On the whole, ‘Ride Along 2’ does its job by delivering a handful of goofy laughs & reasonably solid action sequences. But aside from its noticeably higher production values and satisfyingly stylish opening credits, it’s also pretty much a carbon copy of its predecessor. For better and for worse, it’s neither better nor worse than the original “Ride Along.” But if you thought the first one was fun, taking another spin won’t disappoint.
Director – Tim Story
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 101 minutes