2016 . 1h 41m . Action, Comedy.
As his wedding day approaches, Ben heads to Miami with his soon-to-be brother-in-law James to bring down a drug dealer who's supplying the dealers of Atlanta with product.
Cast: Ice Cube, Kevin Hart, Tika Sumpter, Benjamin Bratt, Olivia Munn, Ken Jeong, Nadine Velazquez, Glen Powell
The sequel nobody asked for is here and I'm happy to report it's no more necessary and no less enjoyable (perhaps even more so) than the first go-around was this time back in 2014. Ride Along 2 is a silly, predictable bit of cinematic fast-food - easy to digest, tasting awfully familiar with each passing bite, and immediately forgettable once through.
Ice Cube is back as James Payton, an Atlanta PD Vice detective who is burdened with annoying brother-in-law to-be and mall security guard turned beat cop and wannabe detective Ben "Black Hammer" Barber (Kevin Hart), a diminutive loudmouth in the vein of early Eddie Murphy. Barber is engaged to Payton's sister Angela (Tika Sumpter), who has employed the services of overbearing Sherry Shepherd (of TV's The View) to organize and plan the impending nuptials. The only one being more overbearing than Shepherd is Hart himself, who argues about hydrangeas and guest placement.
The plot: Payton must go to Miami to track down an informant about a major drug bust which goes awry with the "ride along" of Barber proving a natural foil, even resulting in the minor shooting of Payton's partner (Tyrese Gibson from the Fast & Furious franchise). Angela asks her brother for the favor of him taking her fiancee along to both help him prove his capabilities as a "law enforcement savant" and get him out of her and the wedding planner's hair (weave) for a week or so. Payton sees this as an opportunity to crush his brother-in-law-to-be's dreams of detective work. The lieutenant in Atlanta (Bruce McGill) has his doubts.
Running in many of the same circles is a pretty, tough local detective, Maya Cruz (Olivia Munn, formerly of TV's The Newsroom), investigating the recent murder of the Port Commissioner. Payton soon discovers that the drug bust, the recent murder, and rather lax changes at the port, are all because of a nefarious local businessman (Benjamin Bratt, relaxed and nonchalant to - almost - comedic lackadaisical effect). I was pleasantly surprised that the film avoided the cliche of a dirty cop teaming up with and betraying the good guys (as in the first one, despite some signs to the contrary here), favoring a different buddy cop movie cliche involving a sexy female detective instead.
Indeed, returning director Tim Story (Barbershop, 2005's Fantastic Four and 2004's Taxi to boot) and his screenwriters employ a reliable and predictable blueprint of the original 2014 installment's formula to carry the film along: Ben annoys James, James looks menacing and threatens Ben and others at various points, "comedic" car chases ensue, arrests are made. I know, I know: I almost choked on my soda at the credit "A Tim Story Film" and ironic director's last name not withstanding, there's not much of a story here.
However, the film manages to get a bit of mileage out of some inspired typecasting: Munn as the sexy detective who forms a kind of respect and more for James; and Ken Jeong (of TV's Community and The Hangover series) as a loudmouth Asian computer hacker and nerd on an level of obnoxiousness to rival even Ben, with whom he forms a kind of respect and comradery; his performance recalls the likes of Joe Pesci in the Lethal Weapon sequels. If Kevin Hart kinda grows on you after a while (almost like a flesh eating parasite, if that's even a thing), then Munn and Jeong make this more watchable than it ought be. I also kind of enjoyed Bratt in his sheer matter-of-factness and less cliched laid-back qualities as the villain.
On the filmmaking side, it's all shot with the high-speed, exposition-heavy, cliche-reliant action-comedy style of a paint-by-numbers job. The one inspired touch on the directorial side is a chase sequence involving Ben's Grand Theft Auto-esque video game skills as a Premium Rush-ish talent for seeing several moves ahead of the bad guys. It's good for a laugh or two. The rest is pretty stupid and predictable fare. As such, it's all a bit forgettable, and yet not altogether bad.