At some point in the near future you might find yourself at a loose end and decide to while away the time by watching a movie. You may only have a couple of hours so The Hateful Eight will be too long, and maybe Spotlight is a bit too heavy and The Revenant just too exhausting to serve as a time killer; so instead you settle on Ride Along 2 and think, “Yeah, that’ll do”. While such a thought is perfectly acceptable of a casual moviegoer, the problem with this heartless, witless cop-comedy sequel is that all those involved in its making share the exact same attitude. Like the first Ride Along, this is a copy and paste comedy actioner, recycling tired buddy-cop tropes from similar movies and throwing them into this project unaltered. Occasionally, writers Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi throw in a half-hearted aside mocking their own predictability, but this is no sly attempt at subversion, merely a tacit admission of their own laziness.
Don’t believe me? Just look at the plot. Picking up shortly after the events of the first movie, we find Kevin Hart’s zealous Ben freshly graduated from the police academy and looking to follow in the footsteps of his soon-to-be brother-in-law James (Ice Cube), a hard-nosed detective for the Atlanta Police Department. When a drugs bust goes belly-up – thanks in no small part to Ben’s hapless undercover work – James is forced to take his pint sized partner on a road trip to Miami to track down violent drug lord Antonio Pope (Benjamin Bratt). For Ben it’s a chance to prove he has what it takes to stand alongside his role model; but for James, it’s just another opportunity to get rid of the motor-mouthed pest once and for all.
That’s right, it’s the exact same storyline as the first movie. Naturally, Hay and Manfredi have adhered to the standard sequel maxim of relocating the action to a more glamorous setting while returning director Tim Story has used an inflated budget to execute some even more bombastic set-pieces – the standout sequence seeing Ben channel Grand Theft Auto in order to evade a bunch of gun-toting gangsters during a high-speed pursuit. But, as countless movie sequels can attest, bigger doesn’t always mean better, and for all the extra change rattling around in its pockets Ride Along 2 still has the same fundamental problems.
Namely, it’s just not funny enough. Story and co aim to eek out the laughs from all the wacky scrapes our crime-fighting duo get themselves into through the own incompetence. Yet every set up fails to offer up anything we haven’t seen before. At one point Ben breaks into Pope’s heavily fortified mansion under strict instructions not to make a sound less he set-off the room’s audio alarm. Cue Kevin Hart’s bumbling rookie crashing into everything in and out of his path with all the stealth of a baby deer on roller-skates. It’s a scene we’ve seen played out countless times before and there are no surprises here to really tickle the funny bone.
The only thing preventing the movie from becoming a relentless bore is its well-matched stars. Hart’s frenetic flavour injects some much needed energy into proceedings, dancing through every scene like a jackrabbit hyped-up on jelly beans and fizzy pop. His spirited chemistry with Ice Cube’s seriously stony-faced James is Ride Along 2’s most entertaining factor, the pair’s brotherly exchanges generating the most laughs even though they lack the material to do it on a consistent enough basis.
They’re not exactly helped by a lacklustre supporting cast. Olivia Munn at least plays an active role in the investigation as James’ potential love interest, Homicide Detective Maya, which makes a welcome change from the series’ usual depiction of females as breasts with legs (see: Tika Sumpter’s house-bound fiancé). Meanwhile, Bratt’ Pope is a stock Bad Guy, coming complete with a catalogue of hackneyed threats and a goatee fit for machiavellian twirling, while the less said about Ken Jeong’s puerile hacker, the self-dubbed Bone Machine, the better.
Ride Along never aspired to be anything more than a low-watt 48hrs, but worked thanks to the freshness of Hart and Cube’s bickering double act and a steady supply of amusing gags. This hollow excuse for a follow-up can’t even boast that. The story is a string of hand-me-down plot points, the jokes are stale and the central dynamic has become too familiar to sustain a whole movie on its own. So if you do find yourself at a loose end this week, be sure to give Ride Along 2 a miss. Star Wars: The Force Awakens will probably still be playing, anyway.
Runtime: 102 mins; Genre: Action-Comedy; Released: 22 January 2016;
Director: Tim Story; Screenwriters: Phil Hay, Matt Manfredi;
Cast: Kevin Hart, Ice Cube, Olivia Munn, Benjamin Bratt
Click here to watch a trailer for Ride Along 2