Hollywood has a buddy-cop formula studios continue to follow to this day: two cops, one the goofball comedian, the other a hot shot action junkie. There’s banter, shootouts and a testing of friendship that’s ultimately strengthened by the end of the movie. Call it “Action-Comedy 101” or the “Buddy-Cop Guidebook,” either way; it doesn’t always result in terrific success — case in point, “Ride Along 2.”
As the sequel to the surprisingly successful 2014 film, “Along” wears out its welcome before the title credits even conclude, introducing not one cliche (Latino drug lord Benjamin Bratt) but two (Asian tech whiz Ken Jeong) within the span of a few minutes. Granted, it’s an early assumption, but these two performers do little to disprove their stereotype over the course of the film’s runtime. It’s a particular shame to see Bratt, a wonderful actor, relegated to bon mots left over from second-rate Bond villains.
As for the core duo of Kevin Hart and Ice Cube, it’s unfortunate to say they don’t fare much better than their supporting cast. After the events of the first film, security guard Ben Barber (Hart) is now slumming as a patrol cop, while soon-to-be brother-in-law James (Cube) is back to cracking skulls as an Atlanta detective. A shootout and a few explosions later, James high-tails it to Miami with potentially incriminating evidence against tycoon Antonio Pope (Bratt). Ben, desperate to prove himself, tags along at the behest of his stressed fiance (Tika Sumpter).
Once in Florida, the mismatched duo engages in banter, shootouts and a testing of friendship that’s ultimately strengthened by the end of the movie. Which, as previously mentioned, is perfectly enjoyable, if the empty spaces in between are filled with clever dialogue and likable characters. Instead, director Tim Story goes the opposite direction, sucking the chemistry his actors shared in the first film and replacing it with ... well, nothing.
Hart is a brilliant stand-up comedian, but the consistency of his punch-lines melt in the humid Miami heat quicker than an Ice Cube. As for his partner, Mr. Cube, the rapper’s stoic demeanor and PG-13 insults are like listening to a radio edit of his legendary music — underwhelming, and ultimately, pointless. Olivia Munn is brought in for obligatory eye candy, but even that can’t save a film with hilarious moments you can count on one hand.
Depending on the success of this project, it might not be the last time audiences see Hart and Cube dishing out insults over gunfire. If that winds up the case, let’s all hope “Ride Along 3” has less of a copy-and-paste feel. Repetition is flattery, but not to the people forced to watch.
Danilo Castro is a resident of Oro Valley and writer for the Film Noir Archive blog at www.filmnoirarchive.com