Sunday, January 17, 2016

Ride Along 2 (2016) Review:

For the original Ride Along (2014), it was by no means a buddy cop movie that broke any rules or boundaries. It was mostly a standard affair of the usual buddy cop genre clich├ęs that occasionally threw something new into the mix. One of the biggest differences for this feature among other cop comedies was the pair of main leads. Putting tough guy Ice Cube and comic short stack Kevin Hart together wasn't a bad idea at all. Even with the number of problems the picture had, Cube and Hart were able to make the watch a tolerable experience. Of course because this was probably one of the big reasons as to why that movie did well, Universal Studios green lit this sequel. And like other sequels that come after their originals, their lack of attention begins to show. There's nothing wrong with hiring the majority of the same crew to film a sequel but they have to know how to develop the story and not just run on auto-pilot; rehashing everything from the first entry. Sadly this is practically what occurs here.

Hart, Cube and Munn
Directed by Tim Story and written by duo Phil Hay / Matt Manfredi again, you would think there'd be some kind of change in where the narrative went. Not really. One of the biggest topics that is consistently brought up during this movie is the matter of "focus". The script to this sequel struggles to have that focus. Even with everything James (Ice Cube) and Ben (Kevin Hart) went through in Ride Along (2014), Ben is still not an official detective. After making their latest bust, James discovers that the drugs coming into where he lives is being delivered from Miami. With Ben's wedding is a few days away, James takes Ben on another "ride along" in hopes of having his sister realize she loves a fool. The premise is more or less the same concept except this time, the surrounding circumstances are altered slightly. Going back to what was mentioned earlier, the writers and director just seemed to be on auto-pilot for this project. Hardly any of it feels different from before.

Ice Cube and Kevin Hart still have a bit of chemistry together on screen but it now really depends on whether the viewer is interested in seeing familiar slapstick. Hart is loud and Cube fumes out the ears or stares in confusion. There are a couple of good quips each lead has but the comedy is more hit and miss now. There's also a new addition of supporting characters, which belong to Olivia Munn as Maya, a Miami cop and Ken Jeong as A.J., the main suspect who has a connection to the crimes. Although Munn doesn't have very much dialog that develops her character, she too gets a few good scenes in. Ken Jeong is alright in his role but he can get a bit annoying for those who already aren't fond of Kevin Hart's character. Jeong's role just adds to it. Playing the villain, Antonio Pope, is Benjamin Bratt, who downright nails the "bad guy" voice and look but fails to have any development written for him. This makes him even less of a threat than Laurence Fishburne from Ride Along (2014).

There are few other faces to be seen as well. Tika Sumpter playing Angela (Ben's soon-to-be wife) returns since she’s more or less a plot device than anything else. Carlos Gomez (from Desperado (1995)) plays the Miami captain of the force and it certainly was a surprise to see him. It's been a while. Lastly, Michael Rose plays a henchman of Pope. The only reason why I mention Rose is because for a while he looked like Robert John Burke. It's kind of an eerie resemblance. The action sequences are adequately staged and some parts of those are different when it came to using vehicles and such. The special effects were okay too except for one scene, which dealt with Ben relating an action sequence to a video game. This time, instead of Ben just stating to pretend it's a video game, the scene literally turns into one and its transition is jarring. It's somewhat inventive but at the same time, the visual downgrade makes it look like the crew was just trying to save money.

"Come with me,....I make this sequel so much betterrrr"
The cinematography has changed hands for this feature. Originally for Ride Along (2014), the director of photography was Larry Blandford who had some very uninteresting shots. In Ride Along (2014), much of the situations involved were inside buildings with dull colors. Here, Mitchell Amundsen takes over and it looks a ton better. The setting is in Miami, so there better be some wide scope shots of scenery. Even for the inside of buildings, the structural designs were much more elaborate giving viewers at least something to look at. Amundsen also worked on Transformers (2007) and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009). Lastly, the film score was once again produced by Tim Story collaborator Christopher Lennertz. Strangely enough Lennertz does not reuse his main theme from the original movie but at least keeps the same tone of his cues. A franchise like this should have a main theme to fall back on though. That would've made it somewhat more memorable.

Ride Along (2014) wasn't a great buddy cop movie but it did feel different. This sequel just re-does almost everything except the mission is different. Ice Cube and Kevin Hart still have likable chemistry and the cinematography has improved but much of the antics and formula are very much the same; making this feel too similar for its own good.

Points Earned --> 5:10

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