In the interest of getting “hard” copies of my work under one roof, I plan to spend the next few weeks posting the entire archive of my film journalism here on ScullyVision. With due respect to the many publications I’ve written for, the internet remains quite temporary, and I’d hate to see any of my work disappear for digital reasons. As such, this gargantuan project must begin! I don’t want to do it. I hate doing it. But it needs to be done. Please note that my opinions, like everyone’s, have changed a LOT since I started, so many of these reviews will only represent a snapshot in time. Objectivity has absolutely no place in film criticism, at least not how I do it.
Kevin Hart has always been a performance-based comic. He doesn’t have much by way of material, but his likability and charisma are through the roof, often to extremely funny results. It’s why a movie like Ride Along, his first foray into buddy-cop territory, often works, even if the movie itself is quite weak. Pitting his fast-talking enthusiasm against Ice Cube’s stoic, tough guy persona seems like a formula that can’t help but elicit a few good belly laughs. The thing is, while Ride Along provided a material-free playground in which Hart could be unleashed to do his thing, Ride Along 2 gives him material to work with … and it’s very bad material. Perhaps this is partially by virtue of it being an unnecessary sequel, but it’s also because on just about every level, Ride Along 2 is phoned in. Heck, it’s mailed in, and at times I wonder if they even bothered to lick the envelope. Ben (Hart) is just a few days away from marrying Angela (Tika Sumpter), the sister of hot shot detective, James (Cube). James is headed down to Miami to speak with his hacker friend (Ken Jeong, who really needs to just stop it already) to obtain intel on a criminal who is wanted in Atlanta … or something. Why he can’t just call his friend is a mystery, but we’ll let that one go. Ben wants to prove himself as a worthy future detective and begs to come along. As a wedding gift to Angela, James reluctantly agrees to let Ben join him. You see, Ben is a little too hands-on in preparing for their wedding (he HATES hydrangeas), and Angela needs some peace (she and the wedding planner LOVE hydrangeas).
It’s a needlessly convoluted way to get things going, and the entire film is weighed down by it. The Lethal Weapon franchise has proved that garbage plotting can be smoothed over by exciting action and good characters – and Ride Along 2 fails on both levels. None of the action pops, and there’s not even a hint of the chemistry between our leads. Kevin Hart, a performer who absolutely must be free, is contained. Ice Cube, a performer who works well within a specific range, is being asked to do heavy lifting that he is simply incapable of, which is strange considering the fact the Ride Along 2 should, if anything, be breezy.
Once things get going (relatively speaking), the film becomes a series of overly staged gags linked together by the blandest of expository connective tissue, usually taking the form of a car driving down a highway while a character haphazardly explains what’s happening via ADR:
– Does your boss care that you take so many cars from the impound lot?
~ Yeah, but he doesn’t know.
Thanks, post-production team. Now I know how they keep getting new cars, even though I never would have cared.
There’s a romance between James and newcomer, Maya (Olivia Munn, asleep) but it never comes close to having any sort of spark. They “connect” simply because that’s what the script says they should do. Giving James a romantic interest is certainly an worthwhile idea, but here it’s all a matter of bland course, and it weighs the film down even more.
There is one scene that shows promise, in which Ben goes undercover as a foreign dictator in an effort to sneak into a swanky party. It’s exactly the type of thing Eddie Murphy turned into high art, and Hart, for just this one scene, appears to be game. But in execution, the gag is immediately reduced into a low-brow Hart/Cube slap-fight and eventually ends with Hart being attacked by a horribly rendered CGI alligator (it makes Eraser look like Life of Pi). It’s all just too much. The script refuses to trust its performers, and by convoluting the gags so heavily, it washes away the small amount of soul that shines through in the first film. How over-written, under-thought is the script? There are at least two occasions in which Hart references jokes from scenes he wasn’t even in.
Bland, lazy, and unable to elevate itself to the low standards of its predecessor, Ride Along 2 is a ride not work taking.
Ride Along 2 opens in Philly theaters today.