Here’s the thing: I like all of the base parts of Ride Along 2. I like Kevin Hart — his manic, hyperactive standup is coarse and wild and hilarious, and he has real potential in movies. I like Ice Cube, even if all he does is portray Ice Cube (the current, mature, gruff-but-lovable version, anyway) with different names. I like Olivia Munn, who plays their Miami cop liaison with a solid combination of toughness, awkwardness, and sexiness. I like Ken Jeong, pretty much in any context. I like Benjamin Bratt, who plays the smooth-as-silk crimelord. And perhaps most importantly, I love buddy cop movies. And I love the basic premise behind Ride Along 2, which wants to subvert the traditional buddy cop movie, upending the idea of the hard-as-nails cop by partnering him with a nutty, excitable, emotional rookie who is surprisingly in touch with his feminine side — and does the latter with remarkably little offensiveness.
And yet, despite all of that, Ride Along 2 is a spectacular failure in almost every way. It’s stupid, aimless mess that never uses any of its parts to their full potential. Cube never falters from his dour, hard-staring caricature until literally the final minute of the film, wearing sunglasses literally the entire time and reciting his lines without heart or emotion. As for Hart? There’s a way to take advantage of his particular and peculiar brand of energetic, over-the-top comedic chops, and this film — directed by Tim Story and written by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi — rarely use those skills to his advantage, instead making him an annoying, shrieking jackass (but not in a funny way). It’s frustrating, because I know that Hart has more to him than this — watch this trailer for the forthcoming Central Intelligence to see him better utilized.
Not bad, right? Sure, one could argue that it’s the charisma of Dwayne Johnson that carries the picture, but Hart’s chemistry and humor works better in the 90 seconds of that trailer than it did in the entirety of Ride Along 2. Which means that ultimately the blame for the punching-down, lowest-common-denominator, idiocratic tragedy that is Ride Along 2 doesn’t lie with Hart, or even the mailed-in efforts of Cube, but really with the uninspired, pedestrian (and yet strangely mercenary) direction of Tim Story and the generic, lazily scripted story of Hay and Manfredi. Story is one of Hollywood’s most frustrating directors, the man who infamously botched two Fantastic Four movies, yet also gave us the wonderful and charming Barbershop. He gave us Think Like A Man, a broad comedy that had some flashes of insight and appeal, but then he went ahead and gave us the horrid disaster that was Think Like A Man Too. In recent years, his film ouevre has become less about film making and more simply churning out lowbrow humor with mass appeal, films that will likely make boffo box office despite being critically panned. Ride Along 2 is perfectly emblematic of that, a tepid, hastily cobbled-together pile of shit that misses every swing. It does nothing interesting, lackadasically pushing the same comedic buttons over and over (Kevin Hart is short! Ice Cube is mean! Ken Jeong is silly! Kevin Hart is short again!).
What makes this all the sadder is that, like I mentioned above, there’s real promise here. Turning the buddy cop movie on its head has such great comedic potential (see The Other Guys for a solid example). A better crew of film makers and producers could have seen the possibilities and made something that had both broad appeal and intelligence, and used those sensibilities to make a genuinely good movie. Instead, Ride Along 2 is exactly what you think it will be — a bombastic, nerve-grating crap heap of a film, managing to somehow be both boring and annoying, dragging its feet as it sloppily goes through the motions and checks off its requisite dumb comedy boxes.
And it’s going to make a bazillion dollars as a result.