Kevin Hart and Ice Cube had surprisingly entertaining chemistry when they did the whole buddy cops thing in "Ride Along" two years ago. Cube's surly annoyance was a great foil for Hart's motormouth routine, and Hart's silliness made softened hardcase Cube seem tough again by comparison. Their clichéd pairing also had a creative wrinkle: Hart wasn't playing a cop at all, just a law-enforcement wannabe that Cube indulged strictly to try to make him look bad. Had to, or the runty fool was going to marry Cube's sister.
With "Ride Along 2," returning director Tim Story ("Barbershop") and his writers mistakenly focus on their character dynamic as the big element to bolster, rather than topping their decent original premise with a better one. You'll have to be satisfied with a modest assortment of energetically comic moments here, because the story sure isn't a reason to catch this encore, and neither are who-asked-for-'em cast additions such as Ken Jeong.
Even though Ben (Hart) is now a legit member of the Atlanta P.D. thanks to his first-installment heroics, he's still starved for action, as James (Ice Cube) always leaves him behind in the car. And James certainly doesn't want him tagging along down to Miami for a case involving a skittish hacker (Jeong) and his slippery jefe (Benjamin Bratt), a high-powered contraband smuggler. But then James realizes: His sister (Tika Sumpter) and Ben are getting hitched in a week. Not much of a window for making her reconsider. Time for another character-exposing ride along.
Hart and Cube have a slow-building, good-cop/bad-cop scene in which they hilariously grill a lead about her loverboy's cellphone history, and the filmmakers cook up a couple of visually clever sequences reminding us about Ben's old dweeby-gamer skills. (Not quite sure whether to laugh with them or at them for dropping genre action that final notch from virtual video game to literal one, but it's a kick all the same.) Still, too much material falls flat, whether it's intended as plot, as with the ongoing wedding planning, or simply filler, e.g. Hart and Jeong ad-libbing through a stakeout scene.
Meanwhile, Olivia Munn just looks lost — or thanklessly directed? — as a Miami detective who'll join the guys at crime scenes gratuitously wearing a sports bra. Can't the movie give her something better to do? Actually, we could ask the same about Hart and Cube.
RIDE ALONG 2
Directed by Tim Story. Written by Phil Hay, Matt Manfredi. Starring Ice Cube, Kevin Hart, Ken Jeong. Boston Common, Fenway, suburbs. 101 minutes. PG-13 (sequences of violence, sexual content, language, some drug material).