"Ride Along 2" About As Much Fun As A Parking Ticket

Tim Story’s “Ride Along” was garden-variety fluff, a copy of a copy that saw buddy-cop progenitor “Beverly Hills Cop” filtered through any one of its endless imitators (“Rush Hour,” “Blue Streak,” and so on). It follows, then, that “Ride Along 2” is a copy of a copy of a copy, a veritable flow chart of the devolution of the genre.

Its only noteworthy scene is its last, one that comes with a startling epiphany: two films in and we know next to nothing about the series’ lead character.

The broad strokes are there, of course. Atlanta cop James Payton (Ice Cube) is a devoted cop, over-protective of his sister Angela (Tika Sumpter), and doesn’t much like his future brother-in-law and now fellow cop Ben Barber (Kevin Hart).

But when the movie inevitably ends with wedding scene and James raising his glass in a toast, we’re left wondering, “Who is this person?”

Ben comes with a modicum of depth – he immaturely favors video games over time with Angela and has an aptitude for moments of accidental genius – but James is a blank space. He seems to have no life beyond what’s onscreen and his rapport with Miami cop and token romantic interest Maya (Olivia Munn) comes off as utterly inhuman, like an E.T. newly marooned on Earth.

Tim Story and his screenwriters have only exacerbated the problems of their first film, beginning with a straight-faced cop movie intro that withholds any attempt at humor for the better part of ten minutes. We’re introduced to a boring politician-turned-kingpin in Antonio Pope (Benjaming Bratt) and his reluctant tech guy A.J. (Ken Jeong) in a sequence that seems twice as long as it is, and then we’re off to an extended nod to the “Fast And Furious” series (complete with Tyrese Gibson) that does little but fill time.

The rest of the picture is mush of sloppy direction and editing – as would be expected from a Tim Story project – hinging on its actors to tie the forgettable story together.

Hart had some solid one-liners to work with the last time out, but there are no such jokes here. Just wheezing ad-libs that lead to lots of dead air where scripted laughs might have been and Hart embracing his most annoying tendencies.

Ice Cube brings with him an inherently compelling screen presence, but the aforementioned limitations of his character undermine his attempts at chemistry with Hart. The two never quite spark. Moreover, the role of straight man sells short Cube’s considerable comedic talents (see: “22 Jump Street”).

“Ride Along 2” isn’t a case of diminishing returns; it’s a case of no returns, a movie that has no real artistic purpose and a cast and crew that knows it. With a story not even big enough to fill a Post-It note and a noticeable laugh deficit, all but Kevin Hart completists need not apply.

-J. Olson

Rating: ★ 1/2 out of ★★★★★ (Bad)

Release Date: January 15, 2016
Studio: Universal Pictures
Director: Tim Story
Screenwriters: Phil Hay, Matt Manfredi
Starring: Ice Cube, Kevin Hart, Ken Jeong, Benjamin Bratt, Olivia Munn, Bruce McGill, Tika Sumpter, Sherri Shepherd
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for sequences of violence, sexual content, language and some drug material)