Release Date: January 15, 2016
Director: Tim Story
Writer: Phil Hay, Matt Manfredi, Greg Coolidge
Cast: Ice Cube, Kevin Hart, Tika Sumpter, Benjamin Bratt, Olivia Munn, Ken Jeong, Bruce McGill, Michael Rose, Sherri Shepherd, Arturo del Puerto, Eric Goins, Carlos Gomez, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Glen Powell, Nadine Velazquez, Bresha Webb, Jessica Bialick, Michelle Pieroway, Shelby Courtney, James Martin Kelly, Robert Pralgo, Tyrese Gibson, Ricky Russert, Christopher Johnson, David J. Porras
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 101 minutes
Production Company: Cube Vision, Universal Pictures, Will Packer Productions
Genre: Action, Comedy
In the weeks leading up to Ride Along in 2014, I was more than thrilled with anticipation. I’ve been a fan of Ice Cube from his first appearances in Boyz n the Hood, Friday, and Anaconda, that started in the early 90’s. Along with his musical career, he was one of the few talents in the African-American community that you could count on. Then with him teaming up with Kevin Hart, who was becoming a known Hollywood actor, provided every reason to be even more excited. Ice Cube played his usual hard persona of dry monotone sarcasm, and Kevin Hart was able to do his job making you laugh from all his crazy shenanigans. Though the overall outcome with director Tim Story was unfortunately a disappointment. The story was lacking, and the writing was poor, as if the two main leads had no control. Instead of concentrating on a well thought out script, the writers seemed to only rely on improvisation, and star power to sell tickets. It worked in a sense, making enough money at the box office to warrant a sequel, but the same mistakes were made in this film which is sad, and turns it into another letdown.
Ben Barber (Kevin Hart) is over the moon for his lovely fiancé Angela (Tika Sumpter), and James (Ice Cube) her older brother just wants a man for her that will provide and protect. With Ben being the dividing factor between the two, his role is important. He was trying to win the approval of James in the first film, and that same action is being repeated in the sequel. Their relationship should’ve grown from that, which would’ve brought them closer together. It didn’t and they’re constantly bickering while on police assignments that never helps the situation. What also doesn’t work is Ben’s character period. Kevin Hart plays multiple roles this time, and the film needs to stick with the one that’s suitable. At times he’s playing his typical real life self, over reaching for comedy with false authority. This isn’t who he is, and is a reason I can’t support him. I want characters to be themselves portraying confidence. Other times he’s using his skill set of smooth talking, and polite mannerisms while interrogating, and it works. It provides strong leads, and a green arrow to the next piece of the puzzle they’re trying to solve. He should be doing this all the time. Instead he’s trying to be the rough tough cop like his soon to be brother-in-law, and it’s like the annoying fly at the family picnic that you just want to fly away.
So that’s where the comedy takes place. Just like the fly that’s flying around, it’s all over the place. Sometimes I laughed, while others I sighed. I’m honestly getting tired of Kevin Hart using the joke of how small he is. It comes across as insecure in a way. Every film he’s in he gets knocked down, or flipped over in some exaggerated fashion. It makes you chuckle at times, but real comedy delves from what’s true and real. It would work better if his character was written as a clumsy fellow, but instead he’s treated like a worthless rag doll. Yet we’re supposed to be on board with him as dominating force that will jump the broom with Angela, and win the approval of James. The frustrating part is I know Kevin Hart is funny, and I’ve seen it before countless times. Though funny moments are genuine and not forced, and he isn’t delivering the goods this time. Just him screaming, “James, James, James,” when he’s in trouble, which makes him appear weak.
I’m not a fan of comparing films to others, especially with each having its own goal they’re trying to achieve. This time I feel I have to. Not paying too much attention to the third film in the franchise, the Rush Hour series succeeds where Ride Along fails. They had two opposing characters that worked well together, who were able to be themselves, and contained a complete story that held high stakes. The story with Ride Along didn’t have any. The villain Antonio Pope (Benjamin Bratt) initially posed a threat towards the beginning of the film, but towards the conclusion he became a forgettable foe that wasn’t any more dangerous than an average thug. He actually was apologetic to his own henchman when they didn’t reach his expectations saying, “I’m not really going to kill you.” He started out a murderer, but then turned into someone that only participated in a few illegal activities, and monologues for minutes instead of eliminating his enemies. I felt no strong presence from him, or the number of plot holes the story ignored.
I didn’t want much from Ride Along 2. All I wanted was a few good laughs and a story that I could take somewhat seriously. I wanted an average film that’s re-watchable, or served as background noise when friends are over for a kick-back. Tim Story wasn’t able to put that together. Other than the Think Like a Man series (who was written by Steve Harvey), there isn’t anything special about his films. They don’t grab you, change your line of thinking, or wouldn’t last for years as anything memorable. With a dry story, weak characters, and washed up comedic elements, I’m as disappointed as I was the first time around. Hopefully the director, and cast will craft something great next time they’re up to bat, because now I don’t look forward to their future.