4.5 out of 10
Ice Cube as James Payton
Ride Along 2 Review:
Situational comedy seems like it should be able to repeat itself indefinitely, this is after all what television comedy is built off of. The idea being that the inherit tension of a given situation – say a hard-core cop stuck with the most annoying man alive through no fault of his own – is strong enough to carry through any remix of its parts.
And this did work in early comedy because the conclusion was usually the quickest and least part of the film and seldom did change the nature of the set-up; it’s no surprise television appropriated it so thoroughly. But as film moved away from that mode, it began to become more self-contained, requiring a change in circumstance as part of the climax, and making continuations clearly repetitive in the process. Take, for instance, the plight of Ben Barber (Hart) who won the love of a beautiful woman and proved his right to be with her and yet still has yet to earn the respect of her tough cop brother James Payton (Cube).
Though it seemed like that problem had been dealt with in the first film, Ben gets his real chance to impress James in Ride Along 2 when a lead on drug runners in Miami sends the pair on a snipe and antic-filled pursuit of the bad guys. Like any film (and particularly any comedy) built on the tension between the leads, the situation is the conflict and continuation means either repeating the past or creating an entirely new conflict with conveniently familiar leads.
The best creative results suggest the latter, but the best commercial results typically come from changing as little as possible (the better to stimulate associations with the first film). The result is a beige wall of a movie, something which can be stared out but does not register in any significant way. Like anything else, funny situations have a built in shelf-life; once their core dynamic is resolved, they have no more reason to exist.
At least once a year (and sometimes more) we get one of these and for some reason no one seems to learn anything from them. Instead, when the repetition doesn’t work – and it frequently doesn’t – these films all make the same next move which tends to be chaos, running through as many new permutations as possible in the hope one will hit.
The new in Ride Along 2 is a computer hacker (Jeong) who happens to have all the dirt on kingpin Antonio Pope (Bratt) and the detective (Munn) who has been on the case already. But director Tim Story (Fantastic Four) has no idea what to do even with talented comedic actors, forcing Munn into a second straight man who spends most of the film annoyed at new cops on her beat, while Jeong is stuck setting up situations for Hart rather than partaking in them. Hart himself remains a gifted comedian, but most of his efforts are reduced to running and screaming while everyone else stands around unsure how to react. Ride Along 2 throws things around willy-nilly like a mad scientist with a default comedy setting of “wave your hands in the air and yell.”
Which as it turns out is better than some of the prepared gags, the worst by far being a mid-film car chase for which Ben uses his video game car racing skills to survive. Story chooses to visualize it by turning the entire chase into cheap video game graphics – ostensibly putting us into Ben’s head – which robs it of immediacy and power, as if he wanted to do a car chase but didn’t have the time or money.
The only plus may be that it provides a concrete visualization of how a movie which ‘looks like a video game’ would actually appear as opposed to the CGI-heavy films the phrase tends to get tossed at. But it also cements the feeling that no one involved with Ride Along 2 really knows why they’re there or what they want to accomplish. The end result is a mess and a reminder that to all things there is a season, often the best choice is just to move on.
It’s a lesson Hollywood resolutely refuses to take in. We get a ‘buddy comedy’ like this (and I use that phrase as loosely as possible) at least once a year, if not more – Hot Pursuit, The Man, what have you – and Ride Along 2 is surely not the worst of them.
As a movie, it is forgettable. As part of a system, it’s a reminder of the hell of having the same bad ideas thrust before us over and over again every year. The comfort of the familiar is completely understandable, but the people who deal in such things keep forgetting the other emotion familiarity breeds.