Odd couple pairings have worked well for Hollywood. So has its derivative, the buddy cop comedy that couples one by-the-book senior detective with the smart mouth rookie looking to prove his mettle. “Ride Along 2” is a riff off the old block, bringing back surprise January stars Kevin Hart and Ice Cube to fill in the good cop, bad cop duties in another misadventure.
James (Ice Cube) still barely tolerates his brother-in-law-to-be, Ben (Hart), when an assignment comes through to follow-up on a lead in Miami. Ben, wanting desperately to be in no-nonsense James’ good graces, asks to tag along. It’s not until James’ sister/Ben’s fiancée Angela (Tika Sumpter) begs to get Ben out of her hair before their impending wedding does the experienced detective allows the rookie officer to ride along again. Fortunately for us, trouble is never far from these two as they hunt for a drug lord in the land of “Scarface.”
Unfortunately, the movie shows its cards much too early, defeating the element of surprise. It’s painfully apparent how the movie’s going to pan out without watching the trailer. When things do go according to the movie’s plan, it’s met more with a sigh than laughter. Our expectations are not rewarded, they’re met half-heartedly. Many jokes at the start of the movie fall by the wayside like a bad warm-up comic set. “Ride Along 2” really only works if you buy in to the chemistry between Ice Cube and Hart, and it takes a little time for the banter to become entertaining.
Kevin Hart has achieved a following built around his energetic Chris Tucker-esque persona. But without so much as pausing between breathless scenes of dialog, the nonstop energy becomes a run-on sentence and his character runs our patience ragged. We want him to stop and take a breath every few scenes, even if its to tone down the cartoonish aspects of his persona. Ben is only ever briefly out-matched in annoyance by Ken Jeong’s pervy hacker, but by then, the damage has been done.
— #RideAlong2 (@RideAlong) January 13, 2016
That’s not fair to Ice Cube, whose cool expression mirrored mine for much of the film. He keeps a determined Buster Keaton-like stone face when forced to deal with Hart’s bombastic Jimmy Durante character. Their opposites attract shtick is meant to cancel the other’s flaws. But Cube clearly has the upper hand, not only because he’s patented his side-eye stare (look no further than the way he looks at Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill in “21 Jump Street”) but his low-key approach allows him to be in character even while silent. Meanwhile, Hart must fire on all cylinders all the time to bring the hyperactive Ben to the big screen.
It’s not that “Ride Along 2” is unfunny. Once the pace picks up and our dynamic duo is closing in on the resident baddie, the movie becomes less about what happened in the first film and more about the story at hand. It’s a small change, but it’s a reprieve for those who don’t remember the first one or haven’t seen it. The later addition of Olivia Munn as a stone cold homicide detective bolsters the group's rapid fire dynamic. James is silently respectful of her, and in keeping with his character, Ben in insufferably rude, earning his right to remain silent when she retaliates using pressure points. It’s a shame it took this long to get Benjamin Bratt to dance salsa onscreen, only for it to be filmed so close to his face the camera misses all his dance moves. Isn’t that at least a misdemeanor offense?
After the Michael Bay explosions clear and it's time to head back to Atlanta to face wedding bells, the movie’s core is all about its oddest couple, Ben and James.
“Ride Along 2” opens in theaters Friday.