Ride Along 2 Review
A COMEDY SEQUEL RETREAD
Over the past several years, comedian Kevin Hart has grown in popularity and notoriety. The thirty-six-year-old utilizes his small stature (5’.4) and high-pitched vocal range in telling or reenacting his comedic angst and jokes. With his popularity swelling, Hart has moved into participating in feature films, lending his stand-up comedy styles into the widely casted net of the comedy movie genre. Harts films, including Think Like a Man, The Wedding Ringer, and Get Hard have been met with mixed feelings from critics and moviegoers, but usually do praise Hart for his comedian talents in the feature. Back in 2014, Kevin Hart teamed up with rapper (now turned actor) Ice Cube for the buddy cop comedy Ride Along, which grossed over $160 million at the box office (not too shabby for a film that only cost $25 million to make), but was met with mostly negative reviews. Two years later, Hart, Cube, and director Tim Story are back on the case for another crazy cop adventure with the sequel Ride Along 2. Does newest installment bring with it great laughs or is it just another unwanted sequel from Hollywood?
Utilizing his probationary period to prove himself as valuable police officer, Ben Barber (Kevin Hart) is devoted to his partner, and future brother-in-law, James Payton (Ice Cube). About to be married to James’s sister Angela (Tika Sumpter), Ben is more interested with a recent case in Miami (involving a murder of a government official) than his own wedding plans, begging to accompany James to Florida. James, reluctantly, agrees to bring Ben along for the ride, soon teaming up with local Miami cop Maya (Olivia Munn) to investigate the shady dealings of Antonio Pope (Benjamin Bratt), a drug dealer who’s become a respected business / public figure. The trio soon finds a witness in a computer hacker named A.J. (Ken Jeong), who stole money from Pope and now fears retaliation from the ruthless kingpin. Hunting for leads, dodging bullets, and surviving car chases, Ben and James attempt to bring down Pop, only to be outsmarted at every turn.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
I’ll do admit that I do like Kevin Hart’s comedy. Unfortunately, (like I said above) I think that the movies that he’s in are mediocre at best, proving the comedian / actor is perhaps the best and only part of the feature. An example of this was in the first Ride Along movie. The action buddy / cop premise worked, but has been already played out many times before and just felt like a retread and only Hart’s performance pulled the movie from being generic. The same can be said for the movie’s intended sequel Ride Along 2, which ultimately acts like an uninspired continuation to its passable predecessor.
Director Tim Story, who previously directed the first Ride Along as well as the two older Fantastic Four movies, directs this sequel movie and does (for a lack of a better word) an unimpressive job. That’s not to say that Story as some positive elements going into this feature. The saying “going bigger” is a commonplace usage in most sequels and Story seems to embrace the fundamental idea for Ride Along 2, creating more elaborate scenes with car chases, gun shootouts, as well as adding more characters and a new lavishing location (the city of Miami as its backdrop). Story’s director of photography Mitchell Amundsen does do a good job of capturing some nifty shots and angles, especially when it’s during the action scenes. Story also utilizes Kevin Hart’s performance and makes him the more central character in the feature (more on that below). Thus, if you’re a fan of Kevin Hart, then you’ll sure enjoy watching him on-screen in Ride Along 2.
That being said, Ride Along 2 (no matter how much you dress it up) is just a repackage version of the first film. There’s really nothing new and or great about this sequel as I felt like it was pretty much the same thing that I’ve seeing in the first Ride Along movie or even any other generic buddy cop film. Recycled ideas, little to none character growths, a clichéd bad guy that lives and conducts business in Miami are all used in this movie and just fells overtly familiar and lackadaisical. And let’s be honest, Ride Along was just a mediocre comedy movie and really didn’t need a sequel. Even Ride Along 2’s comedy is just “blah”, a really “hit or miss” with its jokes and gags as if Story and his writers were throwing comedy ideas around (while directing the movie) and seeing what sticks. Hart’s humor is funny in the movie, but it becomes apparent that the movie’s comedy is low on laughable jokes. Which is sad for a comedy movie. Additionally, the movie, which runs about 104 minutes long, feels too long that causes several pacing issues.
As casting goes, the movie is pretty much the same as it was before. Ice Cube keeps an even performance as if he’s on “cruise” control throughout the movie’s duration. He got the character of James right in the first Ride Along (a no-nonsense straight-man cop), but doesn’t bring anything “new” to the table for Ride Along 2, besides the usual glaring and disapproval remarks towards his very loud and eccentric partner. Being the polar opposite to Ice Cube’s James, Kevin Hart is then tasked to carry most of the sequel on his back, which he kind of does with his character performance of Ben. Unfortunately, while Hart does what Hart does best in this role (being loud, constantly energetic, and adding his style of humor), its again a somewhat of a retread from a lot of his other past comedic performances. I think he does a good job at it, but again it’s just nothing really new.
While Hart’s Ben gets a lot of the screen time in the movie, it sorts of takes away from all the supporting characters, who are recognizable individuals, but are mostly stock and / or underserved in the film. HBO’s Newsroom alum and future star in the upcoming X-Men: Apocalypse, Olivia Munn offers a fresh face to the franchise as the pretty (but again familiar) straight-laced / tough as nails Miami cop Maya. Munn’s character is meant to a foil for Cube’s James as she delivers a more energetic performance than he does (if you were to compare the two). Community alum Ken Jeong gives another variation of quirky geek in his character of A.J, a persona that Jeong has played in previous roles in both film and television, while actor Benjamin Bratt slides easily into the role of the good-looking (but again familiar) two-dimensional villain Antonio Pope, a character that’s commonplace in action buddy cop comedies.
Lastly, returning cast members from the first Ride Along, including Tika Sumpter’s Angel (James’s sister and Ben’s soon-to-be wife) and Bruce McGill’s Lt. Brooks (James and Ben’s police lieutenant) are back for this second go-round, but have less to do and are more in the background for continuity purposes.
Unoriginal and uninspired, Ride Along 2 is, more or less, the same thing from the first movie. Tim Story’s sequel breeds loads of familiarity and doesn’t really challenge the status quo in in either Ride Along’s franchise tag or in the ways of the action buddy cop comedy genre. While the story seems “bigger”, more centered around Hart’s comedic performance, and adds new faces in the supporting roles, the movie just has a “been there, done that” feel to it as well as running too long, and lacking emotion (even for a comedy). To me, it was just okay, but it a sequel that didn’t need to made. However, if you really liked the first Ride Along, then you’ll find no problem with this sequel and you’ll probably will enjoy it. On the other hand, for everyone else, Ride Along 2 is a pretty forgetful and doesn’t really warrant a glance.
2.6 Out of 5 (Iffy Choice / Skip It)
Reviewed on January 19th, 2016
Ride Along 2 is Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence, sexual content, language and some drug material