RIDE ALONG 2
By: Gary Murray
Starring: Ice Cube, Kevin Hart and Benjamin Bratt
Written by: Phil Hoy and Matt Manfred
Directed by: Tim Story
Running time: 104 min
MPAA Rating PG-13
Selig Film Rating: Matinee
There are times when a sequel is a much stronger film than the original. Think of such works as God Father II and The Empire Strikes Back. They are considered much better works than the original films. Most though never live up to the hype or that magic does not strike twice.
A few seasons back, Ride Along was a big surprise hit. It combined action and comedy in a crowd-pleasing mix. It had two minor stars with Ice Cube and Kevin Hart who played very well off each other but still found individual moments to shine. Since the movie made a surprisingly large amount of cash, the makers decided to give us another ride with Ride Along 2.
The film takes place about a year after the events of the last outing. We get a precursor of the events with an execution done by Miami villain Antonio Pope (Benjamin Bratt) and witnessed by a dim bulb IT guy A.J. (Ken Jeong). It seems that someone has stolen a bunch of money from Pope and he wants it back. The sunshine is tainted a crimson blood red.
Back in Atlanta, James Payton (Ice Cube) and Ben Barber (Kevin Hart) are trying to bring down a local drug dealer. Ben, who is a rookie, jumps into action when he fears that his future brother-in-law is about to get hurt. This leads to a giant chase scene that happens in a parking garage. We also find that Ben and Angela (Tika Sumpter) have not married yet but are busy planning the very soon wedding. Ben has been bumping horns with the wedding planner.
James believes that the connection with his drug dealer will lead to a bigger fish. This path leads to Miami. The chief sends James and a task force down to the sunshine with a team. That team includes one member, Ben.
Soon, the boys are hot on the trail of the bad guys and take to totally different methods to find and try to capture the villain. This includes such action pieces as a giant road stunt sequence and some comedy moments that involve Kevin Hart and an alligator. The film drives in fifth gear to the inevitable conclusion. We know how it is going to end. The fun part is watching the two cops dicker as they make that final bust.
The film is directed by Tim Story and that is what saves it. The director was behind such hits as Fantastic Four and the first Ride Along. He keeps the balance of the two extremes on an even keel. He knows how to put together an exciting action sequence. This film has cars squealing down the road at a breakneck pace and still manages to keep a degree of tension. Under his command, there are real explosions and explosions of laughter. He also knows when to let Kevin Hart go and deliver some very big laughs. And he knows how to meld the two different paths in a seamless edit.
The film is written much better than the first outing. Writers Phil Hoy and Matt Manfred take the characters from the original film and give them a solid plot. The first outing felt much more like two different characters in two different films. Here, they work with each other and play off each other to a degree that the first film lacked. A strong story gives a strong backbone to hang the funny elements on.
Speaking of funny elements, Kevin Hart steals just about every scene he appears in. Time and time again, he is the live wire to Ice Cube’s stoic face. About 90% of the laughs are caused by Kevin and he milks just about every moment of it. Kevin has gone from third string comic relief to one of the biggest stars in Hollywood. He deserves all the lauded praises given by the public.
Ice Cube is another variation of that solid character he has perfected over the years. It is not much of a stretch for the actor. He does one smart thing. He does not try to upstage Kevin. His company produced the film so he should eventually be laughing, all the way to the bank.
Benjamin Bratt plays a very interesting bad guy and gets a chance to ham it up by being the evil villain. Ken Jeong gets to be a second banana comic relief and goes just about joke for joke with Kevin Hart. But both Olivia Munn (as a Miami cop) and Tika Sumpter are given very little to do other than look good. The world of Ride Along 2 is very much a man’s world and all the women are objects and not people.
Another element that is positive is the music done by Christopher Lennertz. He mixes street beats with Latin rhythms that Miami is known for. The final product makes the audience dancing almost from the first frame.
A film like Ride Along 2 is not going to win any awards or be on anyone’s top ten at the end of 2016. But, it is a fun little romp that will please all of the people who saw the first film. It should also bring along those who didn’t see the first one in the theater but want to be a part of the continuing adventure. It should do very well at the box office even though most critics will savage the print. But, in the end, it is not that bad.