Have you ever driven when your mind is on autopilot? Not purposely, but I sometimes fall into that trap when driving to a very familiar destination like work, a great restaurant or yes, my favorite movie theater. I will arrive and not particularly recall some of the lights or series of turns on my habitual journey, because I have seen/taken them 1,000,006 times. Driving without thinking. I certainly do not recommend it, but most unfortunately, the new comedy “Ride Along 2” is driving without thinking as well. Now the film does not elicit painful emotions. Instead, it simply presents a dull and lifeless script and delivers it via cruise control.
The film continues the story of two frenemies within the Atlanta Police Department, Detective James Payton (Ice Cube) and Officer Ben Barber (Kevin Hart). While James is a veteran on the force, Ben recently earned his stripes and eagerly embraces his new job with the unbridled enthusiasm of a teenager’s first day with a driver’s license. With Ben about to marry James’ sister (Tika Sumpter) coupled with his adolescent excitement, the experienced detective’s patience is currently running thinner than Taylor Swift on a hunger strike. This leads to James calling Ben several lightly amusing names like “Man-Smurf”, “Little Clown and “Marshmallow” during their police adventure from Atlanta to Miami.
With a 1 hour and 41 minute runtime, director Tim Story could devote plenty of scenes to develop these characters and offer lots of humor over their natural conflict and personality differences, but alternatively the audience is simply subjected to repeated, one-note backhanded comments over a truly boring crime story. In a plot which carries the originality of an episode of “The A-Team” in its final season, a prominent Miami philanthropist named Pope (Benjamin Bratt) doubles as a criminal mastermind who has his hands in apparently everything bad, including money laundering, gun trafficking and drug dealing.
With the help of a techie (Ken Jeong) and a Miami detective (Olivia Munn), James and Ben hope to expose Pope’s true intentions and place him behind bars. The movie then sleepwalks through countless and tedious details about Pope’s hidden shipments and manifest records, as the previously mentioned four attempt to crack the code to crimes which no one in the audience truly cares about. The two leads’ comedic timing is the real reason to watch this movie, but the paint-by-numbers cops/bad guys story dominates the narrative.
“The Heat” (2013) starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy fell into the same recycled cop-story trap, but it did a much better job of including some highly memorable sequences with its two stars. For example, Bullock and McCarthy’s characters get wildly drunk at a dive bar and slow dance with a pair of senior citizens, and they also accidentally drop a suspect from the third floor of a fire escape. These are just a pair of many scenes which generated lots of belly laughs, but unfortunately, the writing in “Ride Along 2” is devoid of any such moments.
Jeong is occasionally funny, but Munn is completely miscast. The movie does not really give her anything to do except look pretty and act tough by delivering pressure-point holds on her fellow officer, Ben. Even Maya’s (Munn) dance sequence with Pope is disappointing, because Story’s camera never pulls back to show the two actually move on the dance floor. Instead, we see alternating close-ups of Munn and Bratt’s feet and their head and shoulders. Perhaps they boogied extremely well, but we will never know.
Well, maybe the editors were on autopilot. I strongly suspect they were not alone.
Image credits: Universal Pictures; Trailer credits: Movieclips Trailers