Directed by Tim Story, Starring Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson), Kevin Hart, Olivia Munn, and Ken Leong

**** of 10

This sequel is a confirmation of my suspicions of the original. Ride Along is a Kevin Hart movie made by people who clearly do not understand the appeal of Kevin Hart movies. I think Hart is among the most talented comedians of this generation, because he is fast and full of energy. Every single character in “Ride Along”, both of them, is trying to change Hart by making him slower and less energetic. Kevin Hart is playing Kevin Hart as usual, with the twist that everybody around him hates him, and the supporting characters only realize that being Kevin Hart was what they needed the whole time in the third act.

As frustrating as that is, nothing is more frustrating than a sequel that retreads the original, and “Ride Along 2” does that to a painful extent. Kevin Hart wants to become a cop detective, and get the approval of Ice Cube to marry his sister while investigating a criminal threat that the other officers ignore but Ice Cube has a personal grudge against. Ice Cube tries to set Hart up to fail, Ice Cube’s plan works and he goes to face the criminal alone, but the criminal nearly kills Ice Cube, but Kevin Hart comes back for Cube and saves his life. There is no reason to make Ice Cube learn the same lesson twice. The whole point of the first film was showing that Hart was worthy of marrying Cube’s sister because his unconventional and seemingly useless ideas end up being useful. At the start of 2, Cube is regretting his decision because he opposes Hart’s unconventional ideas. It’s just treading water, which is never good, but for a comedy it’s especially annoying.

The primary different between the two “Ride Along” films is the new supporting cast of the sequel. Olivia Munn is added as an officer in Miami who aids Hart and Cube on their trip to the Sunshine State to hunt a drug lord. Munn is not a very good actress, lacking both skill and chemistry. Ride Along is not a film for intense acting, but Munn is so lifeless in her role that it becomes distracting. She is also set up as a quasi-romantic interest of Cube. They don’t seem to enjoy each other at any point. Cube is trying harder than Munn, but in jokes and in romance the two are never able to take off. Ken Jeong also gets a major part as AJ, a former employee of the drug lord who turns to be an informant for the PD. Jeong essentially plays Kevin Hart, which should not have worked, but it was actually one of the more enjoyable parts of the film. The Jeong-Hart relationship is a big part of this. It’s the only one in the entire movie that has legitimate chemistry. Jeong and Hart play off of each other well. Their characters are the only ones to genuinely like each other.

“Ride Along 2″‘s big problem is that nothing memorable happens over the 100 minute run time. The comedy wasn’t awful, and I got a few laughs, but no scene made an impact that will make me remember it. The set pieces all feel smaller in this than the original, strangely enough. There is a scene where Hart uses his knowledge of video games to get out of a difficult situations, and the movie changes between the real cops driving and a poorly rendered CGI world, where a virtual car is driving. It is an extended sequence that does not lend its way to jokes because a majority of it comes and goes without any actors involved. The climax is rather underwhelming. There are no twists in the plot or in character motivations. Hart and Cube think a man is smuggling drugs, the man is smuggling drugs, Cube goes to stop him from smuggling in more. The final action sequence is underplayed because Hart has to play the last-second savior. There is no tension in any of the fights. Hart will come in and destroy all enemies without fail and save all allies just as effectively. These action scenes are minimal with humor, and the jokes that are tried fail more often than not.

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