Friday, January 15, 2016

Back on Patrol: RIDE ALONG 2

After a woefully underprepared security guard played by Kevin Hart helped his future brother-in-law cop (Ice Cube) take down a big bad guy during a routine job shadow in 2014’s surprise hit comedy Ride Along, he decided to become a police officer, too. Now it’s Ride Along 2, and the talkative, blustering little guy is a rookie cop who really wants his fiancĂ© (Tika Sumpter) to convince her brother to let her needy man go to Miami on a case. She does. So the mismatched pair is together again, this time in a more professional capacity, hot on the trail of a hacker (Ken Jeong) and the drug dealer (Benjamin Bratt) for whom he works. Once again, bland cop mechanics and tepid buddy comedy banter is brought ever so slightly to life through the one-note disjunction between Hart and Cube’s personas. They each get to work a couple of character traits in opposition to the others’ while the plot strands them in a generic detective story that develops lazily.

Deeply uninspired and undercooked, this mediocre and unnecessary movie never makes a good case for itself. The arc of the main relationship – from loud disagreements to begrudging respect – is an exact duplicate of its predecessors, and the journey there is the same dull jumble of thinly developed action beats and repetitive rambling jokey patter. (They’re brothers-in-law, because of the impending wedding, and also they’re in law enforcement. That’s about the funniest it gets.) If the characters were more interesting or entertaining, I suppose I’d be more apt to excuse a passionless, mindless retread. But the screenplay (again by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi) leans hard on the preexisting ideas of who Hart and Cube are, since the first movie didn’t exactly make them much else worth remembering. I still wish they had switched roles way back at the start of this series, making Cube the hyperverbal overconfident guy, and Hart the strong silent type. At least it’d be something different.

But, alas, here we are, with a workmanlike and flavorless film following Hart and Cube through the streets of Miami on an easily solved, but belabored, case. They’re no Bad Boys. We get a generic foot chase (the kind that thinks it’s funny to make the participants bounce off a trampoline and run through people’s houses – stuff like that). Then later a car chase tries to get laughs by intercutting Grand Theft Auto-style video game animation. Other would-be comic action beats include a run-in with an alligator, a car bomb, and shootouts in a nightclub and at the docks. It means well. The location work is functional – sunny and clear – while the action is plain and the comedy and mystery plot are mostly predictable. Returning director Tim Story has a movie that just refuses to think through anything that’s happening, resulting in a halfhearted jumble of clichĂ©. Will the chief (Bruce McGill) threaten to suspend the leads? Will the villain have an inside man? Will women be treated as accessories? All of the above. Duh.

Admirably diverse, so at least it has that going for it, the movie is otherwise routine and uninspired. It’ll contrive a scene for a policewoman played by Olivia Munn to show up to an active crime scene while wearing a sports bra, then not even bother explaining the skimpy reasons why. It’ll include an underdeveloped subplot about a tyrannical wedding planner (Sherri Shepherd). Whatever it takes to shove in an extra stereotype-driven attempt at holding an audience’s attention. There’s so little here. And then there’s the characters’ cavalier approach to guns – shooting at perps, threatening suspects, using the weapons to playact toughness or cover insecurities, treating their job as an extension of a video game. A better comedy could lampoon this mindset (a timely satiric idea) instead of sitting back and snoozing its way through stale cop movie habits. I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely not in the mood for a movie with a comedy sequence involving a jumpy policeman shooting an unarmed person (he doesn’t die, but still…), especially in a totally frivolous and disposable mediocrity like this one.

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