In college, following formulas saved my life. They are a helpful, constant way to always arrive at the same, correct answer. Despite their usefulness, formulas are usually born from the need to solve some inevitable, reoccurring problem. It applies to physics as much as it does film, and this week’s inevitably tedious problem comes in the form of formulaic Ride Along 2.
This highly anticipated/dreaded sequel to terminally terrible Ride Along, picks up not long after the original. Following the same speed as the original, there is an inevitable team-up looming in the future of Ben (Kevin Hart) and James (Ice Cube). This time, it comes in the (female) form(s) of the sultry Miami scene. This buddy-cop action-comedy dynamic has been done to death and with much better results (See: Bad Boys). It requires the perfect combination of exhilarating action sequences with quick-witted comedic punchlines, both which need to have impeccable timing to be successful. Ride Along 2 only has part of one of those elements, and it most definitely doesn’t involve its use of “humor.”
All the jokes that have rolled over from its predecessor are less effective the second time around, which is a shame because they were only mildly effective the first time. Tim Story continues to deliver his unimpressive direction, making us believe that he is just phoning it in. Despite the change in scenery, Story’s main focus shifts to the surrounding eye candy and gorgeous landscapes in a futile attempt to distract us from the film’s complete lack of substance. In fact, the film takes it a step further when continuing writers Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi verge on offensive with their reliance on the inept cop shtick. After everything that has happened between cops shooting unarmed men, they go and revisit the joke without considering the social implications.
Hay and Manfredi are the writing duo that have brought you such thought-provoking gems as AEon Flux, Clash of Titans and another failed comedy, R.I.P.D. They are also responsible for the first Ride Along, which probably made it that much easier to copy and paste together the story and script for the second one. All we ever see from them are jokes that come from stereotypes of cultures they aren’t part of and obviously don’t go beyond the near racist perceptions of outsiders. The only thing working in the writing duo’s favor is that their attempt doesn’t come off as malicious, just thoughtless and careless. The same could be said for the creation of this unnecessary sequel. I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and just think of their work as lazy rather than racially insensitive, but on the express condition that no more Ride Along films be made. That’s a bet I’m sure I’m going to lose.
Even with new actors in the mix, the characters are all rudimentary, one-dimensional caricatures that we are sadly all too familiar with. Ice Cube reprises his cold, somber detective persona that I’m convinced he started playing in 21 Jump Street. Kevin Hart arguably never plays a character, and is his typical, sprightly self, jumping around and delivering his punchlines in expected, exaggerated fashion. Oh, he has a badge now, so that’s new at least. The real tragedy comes in the form of the roles the newcomers are typecast into. Ken Jeong plays AJ, the token tech support for Ben and James’ shenanigans. Olivia Munn plays hard-ass law enforcement Latina, Maya, who is rough and gruff on the outside, but just as vulnerable as everyone else. Finally, there’s exotic villain and drug lord Antonio Pope, played by Benjamin Bratt. All the actors try their best to bring their characters to life, but when they’re all based on well-worn stereotypes, they are destined for failure.
The only real crime that needs solving is how Ride Along 2 managed to escape production prison and was allowed to assault our senses and insult our intelligence.
Rating: ★ (1/10 stars)