Just last year, Straight Outta Compton reminded us of how rap used to be good and the affect of the lives of the founding members of NWA changed our culture. This year begins by sadly reminding us that Ice Cube is no longer the hardcore gangsta of yore but the modern sorely Abbot to a revolving door of Costellos. Ride Along 2 brings the former Coors Light spokesman back as Det. James Peyton and Kevin Hart (the modern day Chris Tucker) returns as his future brother-in-law, Ben Barber.
In the interest of full-disclosure, I never saw the first Ride Along. I heard from friends that it was funny but I just never really got around to hitting that button on my local Redbox. So, I really was expecting a pretty funny movie when I went to see the sequel. The theater had a pretty solid mix between critics and people off the street. The lights dimmed and the Universal Studios logo appears. And, then, silence. There was the general applause and polite laughter at seeing Cube and Hart back together but that was pretty much it. Det. Peyton begins the film undercover with his partner (an inspired cameo by…Sorry, I feel bad about ruining what little surprises the movie has) and Ben’s off in the surveillance van butting in unnecessarily.
With the necessity of sequels being louder and bigger, the action quickly moves from Atlanta to Miami (insert sarcastic joke about Miami being the taint of the country here). Where stereotypical evil business tycoon Benjamin Bratt is overseeing his monopoly of illegal imports into the country. Somehow, Ken Jueng’s computer hacker’s theft of a million dollars horribly derails these plans. The two visiting cops quickly find Jueng and involve themselves in the capture of Bratt.
All the expected characters are there – in a refreshing move, the only White male in the film is the Captain played by reliable character actor and MacGyver’s unreliable friend Bruce McGill. Other than skin tone, everything’s pretty much boilerplate buddy action comedy. There’s gunfights. There’s “comedic” bickering. Shit blows up. Yes, just after Ice Cube’s rather inspired use of a bulletproof vested Kevin Hart as his own shield, shit just blows up for no logical reason. Again and again. Shit goes boom.
You know, I get it, I’m a wannabe film snob. There’s no reason to read anything into these types of films. They’re just there to make us laugh. Unfortunately, with the exception of Kevin Hart getting hit in the head with a ceiling fan, there really isn’t much to laugh at. Ice Cube and Kevin Hart have the chemistry but they lack the characters. That’s pretty much the same for the entire cast. Benjamin Bratt could make an awesome comedic villain in a much better movie. The horrifically under-used Olivia Munn is stuck in the thankless sexy, tough cop/love interest role. Yes, we all want to see these people on the screen but we would prefer to see them actually acting.
Verdict: 2 out of 5
Ride Along was a surprise box office hit; much like a lot of Tim Story’s films – Barbershop and Think Like a Man. Just like those films, it’s great seeing general “popcorn” films starring a predominantly African American cast. (The original Ride Along was first pitched as a film for Dwayne “I Refuse to Call Him the Rock” Johnson and Ryan Reynolds.) The problem with Ride Along 2 is that the actors aren’t given anything to do except mug on the screen. Kevin Hart’s still relatively new to leading roles and his massive stand-up fan base will bring any film he’s in to the top of the box office (How else do you explain The Wedding Ringer?) and Ice Cube is just someone that people like to see being irritated, for some reason. This film will make money and there will be a Ride Along 3 (I’m guessing Ben will make detective and be expecting his first child. While Ice Cube’s Peyton gets involved in an undercover sting against corrupt cops…In Europe!) Hopefully, by that point some writer somewhere will be able to develop these characters beyond their actor’s one dimensional personas.