‘Ride Along 2’
Director: Tim Story
Stars: Kevin Hart, Ice Cube
2 (out of 5) Globes
The only thing that worked in the first “Ride Along” was the chemistry between Kevin Hart and Ice Cube. And that was fine. Hart launched into spastic, motormouth fits; Cube was a granite rock, standing there contemptuously. It’s a simple duo setup, but it also worked, and it was enough to justify a lazy comedy destined for an afterlife permanently filling out TNT’s Sunday lineup.
One could almost say the same about its inevitable sequel, which is even lazier. The biggest difference is the relocation from sunny Atlanta to slightly sunnier Miami, and that should say everything about its ambitions. But something else has changed. The first one played like a comedic version of “Training Day,” with Cube’s aggro super-detective James dragging around his future brother-in-law — Hart’s excitable weakling Ben — on a particularly hairy day on the job. The plot here is more like a grade-Z pot-boiler with jokes slipped in.
The official, actual jokes — the ones thought up by its screenwriters — aren’t much. There isn’t even a terribly coherent reason to reunite Ben and James on the job. Ben has graduated to beat cop, but he still longs to be a destructive action god like his soon-to-be-relative. James is sick of being pestered, so he drags him on a reconnaissance mission in another city to prove their first team-up — and maybe even the first film — was a fluke.
The plot is a big “kick me” sign, especially when it tips the scales and becomes more action than comedy, complete with Benjamin Bratt as an oily, crooked businessman on loan from an anonymous title you pass by while idly scrolling through Netflix Instant. (Olivia Munn is also on-hand to crack zero jokes as a fiercely independent local detective who inevitably gets stuffed into a cleavage-y dress.) Director Tim Story has done big films before, including the other terrible “Fantastic Four” movies from the aughts, but he sometimes has trouble finding the funny in explosions and shoot-outs. Usually he’ll settle for insert shots of Hart screaming like a girl. A car chase done in part as a video game is a noble idea done, like the rest of the film, sloppily.
But “Ride Along 2” doesn’t forget its secret weapon: the rapport between its two stars. What they come up with is never gold; there’s not a single memorable moment in the film, no matter how many times Cube snarls or Hart volunteers himself for verbal and especially physical abuse, from Cube, from Munn, from ringers like Ken Jeong and Sherri Shepherd, from a ceiling fan, from a boat, ad nauseum. Still, Hart and Cube have a bizarre kind of comfortable repartee: the type that’s pleasant even when what they’re saying or doing isn’t particularly inspired. That might not make sense, but certain films can choog along on the charm of its performers, who might periodically make one forget that a film like “Ride Along 2” isn’t just lazy but actively bland.