The original Ride Along, whilst not exactly the pinnacle of cinema, had some strong elements. Kevin Hart made a convincing everyman, and injected energy into an otherwise bland film, Lawrence Fishburne had real gravitas as the villain, and whilst long stretches of the film were largely humorless, some of the set-pieces were engaging. Ride Along 2 maintains all of the weaknesses of the first film, and largely excises the strong elements.
The plot largely mirrors the original, with Kevin Hart’s Ben still trying to prove to Ice Cube’s James that he is capable of being a police officer. They get embroiled (through some nonsensical exposition) in finding a Miami crime lord (Benjamin Bratt), with help from a hacker played by Ken Jeong, and a Miami Detective played by Olivia Munn. The narrative follows the traditional buddy-cop formula to a tee, with almost every narrative beat mirroring the first film.
Whilst the generic narrative is unfortunate, Ride Along 2’s real crime is it’s near-total lack of funny jokes. There are a grand total of 3 laugh-out-loud jokes in the film, with the strongest gag coming in the final 10 minutes of the film, long after any audience good will has washed away. Whilst Hart’s performance in the first film was fairly live-wire, it remained grounded and relatable. In this film he turns the histrionics up to 11, with nary a moment in which he isn’t shouting or hysterical. It’s telling that Ken Jeong, an infamously manic screen presence, appears positively sedate by comparison. The film is also filled with lamely staged (lots of obvious wire-work and pratfalls) slapstick, usually involving Hart falling into or onto something. The main source of comedy is Ice Cube’s deadpan, and whilst he’s an engaging presence, the audience feels his frustration with the other characters a little too keenly.
The other performers in the film are no better served. OIivia Munn’s role is entirely thankless, her tough-cop persona amounting to her grimacing constantly, and being regularly leered at by the male characters. Bratt also makes a much less menacing villain than Fishburne, and his on-the-nose ironic dialogue – “this is where I tell you my plan” – feels tired and lazy.
The other major component of the film is the action sequences, which vary in quality. The opening credits chase scene is actually very engaging, with freeze frames of credits highlighting kinetic moments (a shot of Ice Cube hanging out of a moving car is particularly exciting). However, there are two woefully misjudged sequences involving digital imagery that seriously detract from the film. The first features a CGI alligator that looks truly awful, reminiscent of the infamous scene in The Mummy Returns. The second is a car chase in downtown Miami, which inexplicably plays out as a faux-videogame sequence, with Hart’s character seeing the world as (poorly) animated. One imagines this was for budget reasons, but the execution is downright tacky.
For what is largely a re-run of a fairly average film, it’s hardly surprising Ride Along 2 didn’t turn out to be a masterpiece. However, the misuse of Hart’s manic energy, and waste of a talented supporting cast is disappointing. These actors have proven themselves to be funny people, and if they weren’t saddled with a leaden script and bland direction, they could make a funny movie.