The brothers-in-law are back. You’ll hear that line repeated over and over again if you sit through Ride Along 2 – and it never gets any funnier. In every sense of the word, this film is an example of how not to do a sequel. A tedious, paper-thin cash grab based on the success of the original, Ride Along 2 is a bona fide 2-hour checklist of buddy cop clichés that contributes absolutely nothing new to the genre.
Ride Along 2 sees the soon-to-be married Ben (Kevin Hart) in the early stages of his police career, finally shadowing his future brother in law James (Ice Cube) on how to become the ultimate badass – much to James’ chagrin. When a bust on the streets of Atlanta leads James to Florida-based hacker A.J. (Ken Jeong), James takes Ben away from his bride Angela (Tika Sumpter) to Miami in order to take down supposedly legitimate businessman Antonio Pope (Benjamin Bratt) with the help of Miami homicide detective Maya Cruz (Olivia Munn), who shares James’ enthusiasm for danger and good police work. Meanwhile, Ben remains oblivious to the fact that James’ real reason for taking him to Miami is to show him that he’ll never have what it take to become a great detective, like himself.
Look, Kevin Hart and Ice Cube have phenomenal chemistry together; I won’t deny that. The problem I have with Ride Along 2 is that it does nothing new with the relationship. Ben is still an overcompensating law enforcement savant who gains all of his knowledge from pop culture, and James remains the laconic tough guy who seems to have forgotten any of the respect he gained for Ben during the first film. That’s who these characters are, so expect nothing else.
For the most part, the new additions to the cast add next to nothing to the affair either; Olivia Munn’s Maya exists solely to be a love interest for James, and Bratt is utterly wasted as the one-note Pope, which is a shame because he actually brings a great deal of charisma to the role. The only character that adds anything remotely enjoyable to the affair is the overly hedonistic A.J., but not even the typically reliable Ken Jeong is enough to prevent every scene from feeling like familiar territory. It’s a shame because this is a genuinely talented ensemble – they’re just meandering through a lukewarm product.
Despite the film’s title, it actually takes the one aspect of the first film that gave it any semblance of originality – the ride along – and completely jettisons it in favor of a straightforward buddy cop affair. The movies follows sequel conventions to a T, and as such we get everything we could expect: a general plot that mirrors the original, only transplanted into a more exotic locale, with grander set pieces, and new characters brought into the fold. If you’ve seen Bad Boys, Lethal Weapon, or even the Ace Ventura films, then you’ve already seen this movie.
Perhaps that’s what makes Ice Cube’s presence in the film so ironic: the willingness to embrace tired clichés and tropes. The man’s best comedic performance – the Jump Street franchise – revolves around the deconstruction of these ideas, but in Ride Along 2, he charges headlong in the opposite direction to embrace them. Ride Along 2 is a comedy, but it still takes itself and its nearly non-existent story seriously, and that’s perhaps the most laughable aspect of all.
Now, does that mean audiences will sit through Ride Along 2 without uttering a single laugh? Of course not. Obviously the film has some definite chuckle-inducing moments, such as Ben using A.J.’s ringtones to interrogate one of the hacker’s girlfriends, and A.J. trying to explain his fear of James without seeming racist. It’s these quieter moments that work in the film’s favor, but all too often the movie shifts to its default setting of loud, incoherent rambling and infantile physical comedy.
There’s an increasingly palpable sense as the movie goes on that the filmmakers remembered Kevin Hart’s often hilarious screams and rants during his standup comedy routines, but they forgot that when he does so on stage it’s calculated; he slowly builds up momentum and volume as he goes. In Ride Along 2 it eventually gets to the point where Ben comes off as so shrill and unlikeable that it’s hard to even root for him and James to succeed because the film presents no real stakes for them to do so.
This is where I make a plea to my fellow moviegoers: stay away from Ride Along 2. Is it funny? Yes, at times it is, but consumers need to hold movie studios to a higher standard. If we stop paying for these cash grab movies, Hollywood will catch on produce less of them – or at the very least put more effort into them. We’re still holding out hope that Hart and Ice Cube’s rapport will one day find itself put to good use on a worthwhile project, but sadly it’s not this.