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A very bumpy Ride Along 2'

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Buddy cop sequel blandly mediocre

One of the wonderful things about Hollywood is that you just never know. Every once in a while, a film will come along that becomes a surprise box office hit, drawing huge audiences and making back its relatively meager budget five-fold.

However, one of the not-so-wonderful things about Hollywood is their general attitude of 'If it worked once, it'll work again.'

That attitude is what gives us movies like 'Ride Along 2,' a film that isn't any good but also fails to be bad enough to be interesting. It just is. And for a buddy cop comedy, that's just about the worst way to be.

Ben Barber (Kevin Hart, 'Get Hard') has finally achieved his dream of becoming a member of the Atlanta Police Department albeit still a probationary one. His wedding to Angela (Tika Sumpter, 'Get On Up') is just days away. He's still striving to become a detective so that he can officially partner up with his idol (and future brother-in-law) James (Ice Cube, '22 Jump Street').

When a failed drug bust indicates a connection to Miami, James and Ben wind up heading that way to investigate. In their attempts to track down a hacker named A.J. (Ken Jeong, TV's 'Dr. Ken') in connection with the case, they find themselves wrapped up in something much bigger a shady businessman named Antonio Pope (Benjamin Bratt, TV's '24: Live Another Day') is also looking for A.J. for reasons of his own. Miami PD gets involved specifically a homicide detective named Maya (Olivia Munn, 'Mortdecai') but it soon becomes clear that catching Pope in the act is going to be easier said than done.

And cue the hijinks. Ben screws everything up because that's what he does. James glowers about it because that's what HE does. And so on and so forth.

Even by the usual standards of uselessness with regards to sequels, 'Ride Along 2' is lacking. It's basically a recycling of the first film, only with whatever spark and spirit the original might have had largely extinguished. There are a handful of laughs, but for the most part, the blend of punchlines and gunfire falls flat. Bland and slightly-below-mediocre, it's a movie that fails to inspire any strong feelings, positive or negative.

It should be said that this isn't really the fault of the two men at the film's center. Kevin Hart and Ice Cube are a surprisingly engaging duo; there's an undeniable comic chemistry between them. Unfortunately, neither man has the chops to really elevate the material they're given, so their strengths are largely wasted in a film that exposes their weaknesses. The two have some fun moments for sure, but they're largely lost in the vast expanses of blah that make up the lion's share of this movie.

As for the supporting cast, it's not bad either. Benjamin Bratt can play ethically questionable in his sleep; for real or for laughs, it doesn't matter. This part is totally in his wheelhouse. Olivia Munn is OK, but not much more than that. Not her fault she's talented, but she and Sumpter aren't done any favors by the script. Jeong seems a bit lost in this one, as though he never quite figured out how to match the tone set by the rest of the cast. He's fine, just a little off.

The rest of the team behind 'Ride Along 2' is pretty much the same Tim Story returns to direct a script penned by two of the writers (Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi) of the first film. Story's direction is pretty middle-of-the-road stuff, while the funniest guy on the original script (Jason Mantzoukas) is nowhere to be found. The end result is a film that misses far more often than it hits, filled with generic action sequences and tired one-liners.

Yes, there are some chuckles here and there, but not nearly enough to justify this film's existence. Still, with the considerable success of this installment on opening weekend, we might as well get ready for 'Ride Along: With a Vengeance' in 2018.

[2 out of 5]

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