“You couldn’t tell me he had an alligator?”
“Look I dropped the ball on that, I won’t lie to you.”
“A alligator?”
“Did Marcus bite you?”

Ride Along was a surprise hit, making almost six times its budget which more than anything else meant a sequel was guaranteed. Indeed fast forward a mere two years later and we see Ride Along 2 pulling up in theaters in January of 2016. Now only a few months later the movie hits the home market.

Before we get into specifics I feel like I should disclose something which undoubtedly affects my perception of the film and that is namely I did not go see it in theaters. I know a lot of people who saw it in theaters felt as though while not as bad as The Hangover in terms of a blatant retelling of the first movie Ride Along 2 definitely borrowed more heavily from the first movie than expected and an overwhelming sense of disappointment seems to have built up around the film especially from ticket-purchasing patrons, though critics hit it more harshly than the general viewing public.

Okay so now that we’ve got that out of the way let’s dive right into this. Ride Along 2 is the continuing story of Ben Barber (Kevin Hart, Get Hard) and his soon-to-be brother-in-law James Payton (Ice Cube, Straight Outta Compton.) Just like in the first movie these two opposites pair up in pursuit of a bad guy.

I laughed, I freely admit it. I’m not going to sit here and pretend I was channeling Grumpy Cat throughout my viewing but my main issue is that while there were some laughs what was missing from this movie was really missing, and that’s heart.

In the first movie we need to have Ice Cube and Kevin Hart at odds with one another so that by the end of the film we see if nothing else a grudging respect built between the two of them (although considering it’s billed as a comedy we would ideally see the two characters much closer than that.) So it’s really disappointing that the characters merely repeat themselves here with Ice Cube driving the main impetus of why his James and Hart’s Ben are together at all for most of the movie. It’s a pretty mean-spirited motivation wherein James realizes that if he brings him along to check out a lead in Miami Ben is going to mess up enough that he will either decide not to become a detective after all or his mistakes will cost him his job and James doesn’t really seem to care much which one it is. To give you an idea of just how consistently negative James is he only smiles a handful of times throughout the film as a matter of course. However one of those times is memorable not because it features Ben flailing about in water but because another character present says to James “Can he swim?” because it appears Ben is in distress. And cracking as wide a smile as you’ve ever seen James replies “I hope not.” He hopes he’s drowning is essentially where we’re going in case you need me to spell it out for you.

The first movie played on the fact that Ben was trying to prove himself to James without really understanding the world that James occupies and so it’s an incredibly missed opportunity to not have the roles reversed in this film especially now that both men are cops. It would have been nice to see Ben’s understanding of the world and how it works and his own way of fitting into it something that James instead has to adjust to and find a new respect for by the end of the film. Where does it say that action comedies can’t have any depth to them? And maybe Ice Cube just doesn’t want to portray anything but a serious character right now but there’s nothing to say that reversing their situations means reversing their characters. Ice Cube definitely plays the straight man in these films and placing him in situations which require his reactions to be what were we’re laughing at would be just as funny as or possibly even more so than Kevin Hart’s continued hyper-physicality which 90% of the film’s jokes rely on.

I’m not giving anything away unless you haven’t even seen a trailer for Ride Along 2 (in which case spoiler alert) but at one point Ben throws himself in front of a bullet for James, literally saving his life. And yet the movie wants us to believe that Ben is surrounded only by people who think he’s a spaz at best and incompetent at worst. But while he may be a bit of the former he in fact provides key connections to solve the case. It’s simply lazy to make him a character that everyone treats like gum on the bottom of their shoes and the repetition shows.

Olivia Munn (Magic Mike XXL) and Benjamin Bratt (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2) join Ken Jeong (The Hangover Part III) as the fresh faces this go-around and they are stereotypes at best. Jeong does his best to help Hart lift the weight of the laughs, Munn is stuck as a female version of Ice Cube’s James and Bratt is the scenery-chewing villain. But at the end of the day if you don’t like Hart or Ice Cube you will hate Ride Along 2 so don’t fool yourself.

Not helping matters along is the editing, which was adequate at best and that’s generous. There are so many scenes where we hear lines of dialogue without seeing an actor’s mouth moving, or cut on a line and it doesn’t match up to the lip movements on screen that to say it was a disappointment is an understatement. Why would you do that? Are you hoping your audience is so caught up in the story they aren’t actually going to watch it? See how that sentence makes no sense? Neither does this kind of shoddy editing in a film. I’m rarely bothered enough by this choice to comment so take the fact I am as you will. The other weird editing choice is what’s called “Black Hammer Vision.” At one point in the movie the picture takes on a video game look like the POV stuff in Doom and is meant to signify Ben treating the situation at hand like he’s playing something like Grand Theft Auto. The problem is it goes back and forth between reality and the augmented version too long; depriving us of what was probably a really cool car chase.

Probably the biggest complaint I can levy against Ride Along 2 is that we’re exactly where we are character-wise by the end of it as we were with its predecessor. I don’t believe James and Ben will ever pair up voluntarily and if they do I don’t think James will have Ben’s back. It’s a shame because I do think seeing a genuine respect between these two characters could open up this whole cinematic world and give us a movie which could rival Lethal Weapon or Bad Boys in terms of balancing comedy and action. By keeping the characters stagnant we end up with a movie as two-dimensional as “Black Hammer Vision.”

Fans who have yet to tire of Hart will find plenty to laugh at here, as his commitment to the physical side of his comedy remains absolute and admirable. I waited to see it until after it was out of theaters. You can find enough to chuckle at with a rental, if you enjoyed the first one and like any of the principal cast. Jut don’t expect it to rise above any conventions. It’s a real shame Ride Along 2 did not mine the little gems that actually may have made a sequel not just welcome but commendable.

While the editing disappointed me, the technical specs did not. Universal offers up a Ride Along 2 (Blu-ray) whose 2.40:1 transfer looks crisp and “Black Hammer Vision” looks just like a video game. The night shots are well-balanced and the white levels never get blown out. And thankfully we avoid the overly-orange palette which seems to haunt Miami scenes. The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio does its job well, never drawing attention to any levels or obvious ADR even when we know it’s there.

The DVD has these special features which are also available on the Blu-ray…
* Feature Commentary with Director Tim Story
* Deleted Scenes
* The New Recruits
* Ride Along With Us: Hilarious New Recruitment Video
* Behind The Scenes of Ride Along With Us
* Kevin and Cube: Brothers-In-Law
* Inside Black Hammer Vision
* Gag Reel

However, the Blu-ray comes with some exclusive special features…
* The Ride Along Roundtable
* The Ride Diaries with Kevin and Cube
* The New Recruits
* Ride Along With Kevin Hart: Day on Set
* Cori’s Wedding Commercial

We also get a standard def DVD copy, as well as a digital download for those who prefer to take their movies on the go.

In terms of a recommendation, stick with a rental or streaming, and that’s only if you really like Kevin Hart, Ice Cube, or the other cast members. Though it made back over twice its budget, no plans are imminent for Ride Along 3. So until you know if this franchise is “Game Over,” I’d hold off buying anything.

THE VERDICT

Guilty of taking the audience for a ride along without enough new scenery to justify spending the gas money.

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