“[A]stonishingly inert and almost entirely uninteresting”

by Steve Pulaski

The original “Ride Along”‘s first mistake was settling the merits of its screenplay on the charisma and abilities of both of its lead performers, Ice Cube and Kevin Hart, respectively. Mixing Ice Cube’s trademark meanness and Kevin Hart’s zany, over-the-top energy presented a dichotomy destined for screwball circumstances, but the remainder of the film was simply a cut-and-paste effort, mixing the best elements of “Rush Hour” with a lackluster crime caper formula and fairly uninspired humor.

Along comes “Ride Along 2,” yet another middling effort from two comedians who have so much potential that, I presume, is going to waste in this incredibly poor franchise. This time, James and Ben (Cube and Hart) reunite to travel to Miami to find a drug dealer named Troy (Glen Powell), but in order to do so, they must beat the information out of a dweeby hacker named A.J. (Ken Jeong). A.J. reveals that he does a lot of work for Antonio Pope (Benjamin Bratt), a filthy rich investor who keeps his many illegal operations on the down-low.

James and Ben team up with Maya Cruz (Olivia Munn), a homicide investigator who admires their charisma, even if she finds Ben a bit too obnoxious at times. In addition, Ben, who is pining to become a certified detective in the force, needs to get back home to wed James’ sister. The result is one-hundred minutes of four actors, who have proven their talent in many other pictures, run around like cats chasing mice in search of bad guys, good leads, and some decent punchlines. They wind up finding the first two items.

Ride Along 2
Directed by
Tim Story
Ice Cube, Kevin Hart, Tika Sumpter
Release Date
15 January 2016
Steve’s Grade: D-

“Ride Along 2” is astonishingly inert and almost entirely uninteresting despite all that’s going on. Its fatal flaw besides another unremarkable crime story is mistaking obnoxiousness and loud action sequences and shouting matches for real humor. The cast, particularly Kevin Hart, feels the more they run around and shout at the top of their lungs, the funnier they will be. Hart in particular finds success with this formula during his many stand up comedy specials (according to a brief trailer before “Ride Along 2,” we’ll get to see yet another theatrical special from Hart called “Kevin Hart: What Now?” later this year), but when confined to a film where he’s supposed to create a character we like and sympathize for, that motive gets lost in all the cacophonous yelling.

With that, some of the creative decisions on behalf of director Tim Story and the writing team of Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi are just bizarre, most specifically, the film’s major car chase. In an early scene of the film – and a humorous one, at that – Ben is seen playing a “Grand Theft Auto”-style video-game, racing a vehicle and dodging other cars, pedestrians, and police roadblocks with great skill and reactions. The major car chase in the film, upon Ben taking the wheel in order to dodge violent criminals shooting at them so James can fire back, switches back between the traditional style of a cinematic car chase to the style of a video-game, equipped with a map in the corner and third-rate video-game graphics. The result is a visual mess that completely throws the placement and the continuity off to the point where it’s like playing a laggy video-game in terms of trying to keep up with the action.

God bless Olivia Munn for taking time out of her presumably busy schedule to play with children on the set of this film. Munn is the only performer here with any conception of subtlety; consider her faint but noticeable eyebrow-raise when Ben insults her to her face after being completely and totally shaken to the core by her. While Munn is more concerned with restraint, Cube gives his usual schtick, Hart runs around in circles exhausting himself, and Jeong is nearly intolerable, reciting his lines either by shouting or by embellishing a screechy dialect.

The “Ride Along” franchise reminds me a lot of the “Taken” franchise in that it was never destined to be anything more than dime-store fare for the drab month of American mainstream releases in January. It did, however, get lucky thanks to advertising and promoting its star-power so much so that it became a huge hit, and alas, spawned a couple sequels to continuously capitalize on the persistent mediocrity of the franchise. In that respect, “Ride Along 2” succeeds and lives up to the low-bar already set by a forgettable film.