09222017Headline:

“Ride Along 2” movie review

By Jeff Boudreaux

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Ice Cube and Kevin Hart are back as the odd couple of law enforcement, a veteran and rookie cop, as well as soon-to-be “brothers-in-law,” in this sequel to 2013’s comedic romp “Ride Along.” Director Tim Story (“Barbershop,” “Think like a Man” series) returns to the helm of this aspiring “buddy cop” franchise, and the laughs do happen to arrive at a more brisk pace than its predecessor, although the plotline isn’t quite as fresh and the villain is rather a step-down from Laurence Fishburne’s forceful portrayal of the much-feared “Omar” in the first film.

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After the events of the last film, the accidental police prowess of Ben Barber (Kevin Hart) has managed to propel him through the police academy in Atlanta, where he is experiencing life as a rookie cop who also happens to be one week away from marrying his fiancé, Angela (Tika Sumpter). Angela’s brother, veteran detective James Payton (Ice Cube), is doing what he does best, and that’s placing drug dealers on notice in the streets of Atlanta. With the so-called assist by his little pal (or more accurately the thorn-in-his-side otherwise known as Ben), the two miraculously manage to crack a sting operation that ties local drug dealers to a much larger operation in Miami.  James decides to assemble a team (i.e. Ben in full-scale begging mode) to travel to Miami to find a hacker named A.J. (Ken Jeong of “The Hangover” trilogy), who’s a sought-after witness to the crimes of playboy philanthropist (?) and criminal kingpin Antonio Pope (Benjamin Bratt). The “team” really does come to fruition when Payton and Barber seek the help of one of Miami P.D’s top detectives, Maya Cruz (Olivia Munn), in order to protect A.J. and stop a shipment of guns and narcotics before it crosses state lines. “Ride Along 2” also features a returning Bruce McGill as Lt. Brooks, the boys’ superior, and longtime co-host of “The View,” Sherri Shepherd, as an irascible wedding planner that just doesn’t see eye-to-eye with Ben (mainly since she’s about a foot taller)!

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Cube and Hart exhibit a more seamless chemistry this time around, sharing some truly funny scenes together. It’s no doubt that they make a formidable comedic team with a respectfully modern take on the veritable straight-man/buffoon twosome (i.e. Cube’s Abbott to Hart’s Costello). Once again, Hart gets to showcase his undeniable talent for comic masquerade, with an uproarious scene where Barber poses as an African prince to gain entry to Pope’s party (with Payton and Cruz in tow as “servants”). While very funny and reminiscent of Barber’s impersonation of Omar from “Ride Along,” it also showcases some of the holes in the screenplay since Cruz is also recognized as a police officer by Pope himself before they trip the light fandango! Obviously, the kingpin and his bouncers should have spent a little more time getting on the same page. Kudos are in order, however, to the screenwriting team of Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi (“Clash of the Titans,” “R.I.P.D.”) as the laughs are disbursed to several characters, including a more palatable than usual Ken Jeong (for this reviewer at least), as well as some effective dry humor that offsets Benjamin Bratt’s otherwise deadpan delivery.

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Having been bestowed with a ‘PG-13’ rating by the MPAA (there weren’t any expletives to mention), I can’t help but think that the sexual situations appeared to push the boundaries of what the producers could achieve before they were slapped with an ‘R’ rating. One of the highlights I am alluding to involves Barber’s sexy fiancé (Tika Sumpter) presenting a one-woman bachelor party to her man, decked out in stereotypical, yet delightfully naughty policewoman garb. There’s also a scene at the beginning of the film where A.J. is about to partake in a Skype session with a well-endowed “lady of the evening” before having to answer Pope’s beckon call. Trust me, I have no complaint with these scenes, it just made me forget that I was watching a ‘PG-13’ film, and that’s always a good sign.

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The film does manage to boast some gorgeous Miami scenery, with cinematography by the proficient Mitchell Admundsen (“Transformers,” “Now You See Me”). The new setting for these characters is a blessing in disguise, with the change in locale almost functioning as a new character that feeds off the talents of the film’s stars. With all of that being said, it’s quite obvious that this film won’t be nominated for any awards this season, however it should accomplish exactly what it sets out to do, and that is to become a verifiable hit with audiences, who at the end of the day simply want to laugh and be entertained.
** (two out of four stars)

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