Combustible Celluloid
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With: Ice Cube, Kevin Hart, Tika Sumpter, Benjamin Bratt, Olivia Munn, Ken Jeong, Bruce McGill, Michael Rose, Sherri Shepherd, Arturo del Puerto, Eric Goins, Carlos Gómez, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Glen Powell, Nadine Velazquez
Written by: Phil Hay, Matt Manfredi
Directed by: Tim Story
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of violence, sexual content, language and some drug material
Running Time: 101
Date: 01/15/2016

Ride Along 2 (2016)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Brothers-in-Law Enforcement

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The trick to a Kevin Hart movie is this: all you have to do is put his 5'4" self with someone bigger, or more fearsome, and you have comedy.

Teaming Hart with Ice Cube, with the famous scowl, in Ride Along (2014), resulted in a sure-fire hit; and here comes Ride Along 2, with more of the same.

The catch is that Hart's comedy act mainly involves him being annoying. He yaps, boasts, acts rashly, does dumb things, and owns all of it; he's never embarrassed and regrets nothing.

So for Ride Along 2 to work, in a feature-length, audience-engaging way, Hart must figure out a way to show some human emotions from time to time. However, Cube has the harder job; he has to look annoyed, but not so annoyed that he appears to have turned up just to collect a paycheck.

Together they pull it off, sometimes, but not all the time. They are not miracle workers.

In Ride Along 2, James (Cube) is trying to catch an Atlanta drug dealer. Ben (Hart) has graduated from the police academy and is a provisional rookie beat cop; he's about to marry James's sister Angela (Tika Sumpter).

James uncovers a lead that takes him to Miami, and he is talked into taking Ben along. They meet local homicide detective Maya (Olivia Munn) and track down their lead, computer nerd A.J. (Ken Jeong).

This brings them to a slick philanthropist/drug dealer/gun runner (Benjamin Bratt), and to several chase scenes/shootouts.

The original Ride Along was more innocuous than it was funny; this sequel is funnier, but mainly when Hart suffers some kind of humiliation or takes a beating. This can't be healthy, for Hart, or for the audience.

Otherwise, Munn and Bratt are given a tango scene together that should have been very sexy, but the direction by Tim Story — whose credits include the first Barbershop and two Fantastic Four movies — is so choppy and confusing that the dance is rendered inert.

This, sadly, goes for just about every kind of action, or even the slightest movement, throughout the entire movie. Few of the shots match, and the noisy soundtrack frequently combines screaming with music; for a movie that's probably 60% action, and 40% jokes, that's a bad thing.

Hart can enjoy his fame while it lasts, but Cube achieved legendary status last summer, immortalized in a biopic about his music career, Straight Outta Compton. Reliving those early artistic triumphs should have reminded Cube that showbiz is more about expressing yourself than it is about sequels.

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