The thing about dump months is there’s always a winner. No matter how little studios care about the movies that come out in these periods, there’s still a no. 1 every single week. In 2014, that was Ride Along for three weeks in a row. So here we are.
Ride Along 2 picks up with Ben Barber (Kevin Hart) fresh out of the police academy and less than a week from marrying Angela Payton (Tika Sumpter), sister to detective James Payton (Ice Cube, who also produces). In order to get evidence on a recent arrest, Payton has to go to Miami to find a hacker, A.J. (Ken Jeong), who can unlock the digital details he needs, and against all sense and police regulation, he is allowed to bring Barber as his partner. Hijinks abound!
The first Ride Along was aimed quite narrowly at black viewers, with not only its lead actors, but also its villain and lead woman being black. This also goes with a rare Atlanta setting, one of only a handful of cities in the U.S. with a majority black population. The targeting worked, producing a 50 percent black viewership on the film’s opening weekend and no doubt helping it last as long as it did at the top of the box office, with no other movie it was up against having any kind of strong single-demographic pull. After Ride Along’s success, it’s obvious producers wanted to widen the target audience, bringing in Asian, white and mixed-race actors — Jeong, Oliva Munn and Benjamin Bratt — in principle roles and moving to Miami, with a more than 70 percent white population.
None of this is a problem, but the desire for a broader audience seems to have spilled over into the storytelling as well, creating one of the dullest, safest movies in recent memory.
Ride Along 2 is a movie so generic it defies any kind of description or emotional response. It is a blitzkrieg of familiar elements and plot devices performed with a distinct lack of flair or even comprehension as to why they’re so common. And while it may seem obvious that a sequel wouldn’t be too original, many elements aren’t even from its predecessor, which was itself far from unique.
There’s the obvious buddy cop and veteran/rookie dynamics, taken from countless movies that came before. There’s the dance floor distraction scene, and the general trope of an obviously competent female character, Maya Cruz (Munn), being reduced to her appearance — though Cruz does much more to help than the average leading lady this fate befalls. Neighborhood chases, sneaking around lavish parties, nonsensical hacker computer screens, shipyard shootouts — it’s all familiar and all boring.
Even the strong themes in the first movie about Barber’s fractured, video-game based sense of reality are muted, relegated to a single rotoscoped car chase scene.
This is barely a movie. It could have been pieced together entirely from previous buddy-cop films, and no one would really notice the difference.
Leopold Knopp is a formerly professional film critic, licensed massage therapist and journalism student at the University of North Texas. Just let the dog lick your face. I’ve had a change of heart in regard to reader input. It is now welcomed and encouraged. Like Reel Entropy on Facebook, follow it on Twitter @reelentropy, and shoot questions to reelentropy@.