WITH the same brand of silliness and a bit more creativity than the original, “Ride Along 2”doesn’t pretend to be anything more than what it is: a sequel designed to offer a second helping of exactly what worked the first time around.
The original “Ride Along” topped the box office for three straight weeks when it opened in January of 2014, collecting $150 million returns on its modest $25 million budget. It focused on Ben (Kevin Hart), an excitable video-game junkie and wannabe cop, and his attempts to impress his disinterested future brother-in-law, James (Ice Cube), a hard-nosed police detective. Hart is goofy and slapstick; Cube is stern and annoyed.
Producers reprise the formula and return to many of the original film’s artists for the sequel, including screenwriters Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi and director Tim Story.
This time around, Ben is a fresh graduate of the police academy a week away from his wedding to Angela (Tika Sumpter). He’s still trying to impress her brother, James, who still can’t stand him.
At Angela’s urging, James reluctantly agrees to bring Ben on a police mission from Atlanta to Miami, where James is on the hunt for a suspicious hacker, AJ (Ken Jeong). AJ is linked to a case James is working in Atlanta, but he’s also connected to a major Miami drug lord, Antonio Pope (Benjamin Bratt), who has been masquerading as a philanthropist. This prompts a local homicide detective, Maya (Olivia Munn), to join the investigation.
The plot is too complicated to explain (there’s government corruption and shipping fraud involved), but it doesn’t even really matter. It’s just about setting up ever more elaborate situations for Hart to be a goofball to Cube’s straight man.
The actors deliver, just like in the last movie and others where they play similar roles. Cube is predictably tough and snarly, making Hart seem even more smiley and animated by contrast. He eats up the camera in every scene.
Everything else is a side dish, though Jeong amuses as a sex-crazed hacker nebbish and Sherri Shepherd is over the top as an obsessive wedding planner. Munn gets in on the action scenes and performs a sultry dance with Bratt, but Sumpter is given little to do.
Since this is a buddy-cop movie, it wouldn’t be complete without car chases and explosions, and the fancy rides and fireworks in “Ride Along 2” reflect the film’s larger budget. There’s ample eye candy in the form of bikini-wearing women, glamorous Miami settings and sleek sports cars, including a breathtaking baby-blue Jaguar.
The most playful sequence involves that car and special effects that transform a real street chase into what looks like a video game.
Although “Ride Along 2” has fancier trim than the original, it’s really just the same old ride. But if you thought the first one was fun, taking another spin won’t disappoint. Two stars out of four.