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Arriving close to two years after Ride Along, Ride Along 2 is going to have to work hard to distinguish itself from its predecessor. Just slapping the same ingredients of Ice Cube (the tough guy) and Kevin Hart (the goofball) won't feel fresh. So new faces are necessary, including one of the biggest in comedy. Which, somehow, is Ken Jeong.
Variety reports that comic irritant Ken Jeong has climbed aboard Ride Along 2. Details on Jeong's role are being kept under wraps by the studio, because surely they're a precious magical element to Ride Along 2 that would suffer were it to be shared in advance. Certainly the story to Ride Along 2 is so rewarding, and so dense and filled with comic detail, that sharing it in advance would damage the art of Messrs. Cube, Hart, Jeong and director Tim Story. Surely it can't be because the script is incomplete, heavily reliant on improv, and still being worked on.
Variety also reports that Olivia Munn and Benjamin Bratt have been added to the cast. While both have shown comic talent in the past, they're absolutely the type of placeholders hired by a movie to play straight man to another actor's jokes. They're probably not going to get as many opportunities as Jeong to be silly, since most directors seem to think of Jeong as absolute automatic laughs.
Jeong actually tried acting and stand-up as a side project while working as a physician in Los Angeles. But when Judd Apatow cast him in Knocked Up he exited the medical profession as Apatow brought him back for the following year's Pineapple Express and Step Brothers. But it was The Hangover that turned him into a breakout star. As Chow, the one character who gave voice to the franchise's paranoid gay panic, he was filthy, sleazy and predatory. Somehow, Jeong's soft features and boyish mischief allowed you to forgive the deaths and overall skeeviness. It's an actual performance in all three Hangover films, a creation of comic menace that alternates between sickening and weirdly adorable.
Unfortunately, it's given him and his collaborators a chance to indulge in his various comedic desires, letting him fly off the handle to make a series of goofy faces and comic voices as if someone left the camera on and didn't tell the directors. Seeing a movie with Ken Jeong in a packed house (like, for example, Transformers: Dark of The Moon, where he's a pistol-packing homosexual predator) will result in laughter. Seeing one in a theater a quarter full, and you could hear a pin drop whenever Jeong is onscreen. The hope is director Tim Story gives him something worthwhile to do. The worry is that he'll give him too much to do . Ride Along 2 opens January 15th, 2016.