By the end of 2014’s highly successful RIDE ALONG, we knew that we were going to be seeing more of Payton (Ice Cube) and Barber (Kevin Hart). Sure, the formula needed a few tweaks here and there, but Hart’s natural underdog charm and Cube’s permanently grumpy straight man are the stuff long-running movie franchises are made of.
It’s almost shocking then that so little care seems to have gone into RIDE ALONG 2; most of the tweaks in this sleepwalking sequel have been made in the wrong places.
Key among these is Hart's character. In the first film, Barber was the runt outsider who just wanted to become a good police officer, but was willing to listen and learn. After about a year on the force, it seems all that has gone out the window; he’s learned nothing, and is generally speaking just a terrible cop. It sounds nit-picky for a buddy cop comedy aimed at 13 year old boys, but this oversight of character brings the film crashing down around the ears of its two stars. Throw in a tediously hackneyed, sub-80s TV episode plot (Payton drags Barber along to a case in Miami involving Benjamin Bratt’s suave, rich and connected villain) that rarely allows either star to play to their comic strengths, and you’re in for a very long, only occasionally funny 100 minutes.
With its safe-but-highly-profitable PG13 rating, I'm not predict any box office trouble for the series, but if director Tim Story & co wanted to get back on track from here and come up with something more than coasting, it’s going to require a lot more care in the writing phase.
RIDE ALONG 2 is released January 15 in the US, Australia and NZ, and January 22 in the UK