Ride Along 2 is an uninspired retread of its predecessor, but manages to reach the (low) bar set for this action/comedy franchise.
Ride Along 2 picks up with no-nonsense Atlanta cop James Payton (Ice Cube) and his wise-cracking "partner" Ben Barber (Kevin Hart) when they're on the verge of becoming brothers, with but a week or so left until Ben gets married to James' sister, Angela (Tika Sumpter). When Ben fumbles their latest undercover operation together, James is all too prepared to leave him behind and head down to Miami to investigate a drug ring case that he's been working on, alone. James then realizes that this case is a chance for him to convince Ben once and for all that he's not cut out to be a detective, so he invites his "brother in law" along for the ride.
James and Ben are assisted in their investigation by Maya Cruz (Olivia Munn) - a Miami police officer whose no-nonsense attitude matches James - as well as A.J. (Ken Jeong), a computer hacker with key information that James and Ben need to crack then case open. However, when the duo learn that the powerful and respected Miami businessman Antonio Pope (Benjamin Bratt) is the orchestrator behind said drug ring, the "brothers in law" realize that getting back in time for the wedding is no longer the biggest problem on their plate.
Ride Along 2, likes its predecessor, is a buddy action/comedy that centers around Ice Cube and Kevin Hart's characters; at the same time, the sequel devotees more screen time to Hart and his brand of comical shenanigans than its predecessor did, similar to Ride Along 1 and 2 director Tim Story's Think Like a Man sequel, Think Like a Man Too before it. The move is clearly a reflection of Hart's increase in popularity over these past couple years (and, in turn, his ability to wield more creative influence over his starring vehicles), but that's not to say that this is a bad storytelling move either - seeing as Hart's performance style is not only the Ride Along franchise's biggest selling point, but also its best element too.
Case in point: the Ride Along 2 script by Ride Along co-writers Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi recycles a number of plot beats and the basic character arcs from its predecessor in a derivative fashion. At the same time, the Ride Along sequel embraces the "go bigger" approach by incorporating more characters (portrayed by recognizable stars) into the mix, while upping the action ante with more car chases, foot-chases, and a flashier setting to boot. Most of the jokes that get thrown at the wall this time are either highly reminiscent of gags and comedic scenarios featured in the first Ride Along, or they rely upon the same formula used to generate laughs before. Nevertheless, Ride Along 2 has the same overall ratio of hits to misses in the joke department as its predecessor, so it would be a stretch to refer to this film as being an example of diminishing returns in the laughs department.
From a directorial perspective, Story does an adequate but otherwise unremarkable job of staging the various comedy and/or action scenarios in Ride Along 2, as far as framing, camera-work and sequence construction is concerned. With assistance from their director of photography Mitchell Amundsen (Now You See Me), Story and his production team assemble multiple sequences that blend humor and thrills in a mostly uninventive manner - save for one particular car chase - but a passable manner too, while at the same time riffing on the visual tropes of such popular action franchises as Fast & Furious (most overtly near the beginning of the film). Ride Along 2 is further served by its brisk pace, which prevents the movie from ever lingering too long on any one action/comedy sequence... be it a success or failure.
Ice Cube as James is understandably on cruise control throughout Ride Along 2 when it comes to his performance - seeing as he's very much the straight-man in the film's comedy duo and has little to do but shake his head, glare at, and/or express his disapproval towards Hart and his various hijinks. Hart is thus tasked with carrying the sequel on his back for the most part, which he does - making the most of the scripted comedy material that he has to work with, while incorporating as much of his own style of humor and comedic sensibilities into the Ben character. Again, the downside of Hart getting so much time in the spotlight is that his Ride Along costars have even less to do in the sequel - and in the case of returning cast members like Tika Sumpter and Bruce McGill (back as Angel and the stern Lt. Brooks, respectively), that is really saying something.
Olivia Munn (The Newsroom), in many ways, winds up sharing straight-man duties with Cube opposite Hart, though because Munn's character - a fellow hard as nails Miami cop - is new to the franchise, her work here feels more energetic and fresher than Cube's by comparison. Ken Jeong (Community) as A.J. is yet another variation on the quirky and off-beat geek that Jeong plays in the majority of his film and television show appearances, while Benjamin Bratt (Law & Order) slides comfortably into the role of the handsome, but conniving, two-dimensional central villain in Ride Along 2. Finally, there are a handful of special appearances over the course of this sequel... though, by far the biggest ones have already been spoiled by the Ride Along 2 trailers.
Ride Along 2 is an uninspired retread of its predecessor, but manages to reach the (low) bar set for this action/comedy franchise. There's always the hope with these action/comedy sequels that they will not only improve on their predecessors, but also put a creative new spin on the franchise's central premise too... but that doesn't happen here, sorry to say. In the end, those who enjoyed the first Ride Along for what it was will get additional mileage out of the sequel; everyone else need not even apply.
Ride Along 2 is now playing in U.S. theaters. It is 102 minutes long and is Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence, sexual content, language and some drug material.
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