Watching the “Ride Along” films (this is the second installment in the buddy cop franchise) is an exercise in succumbing to Kevin Hart’s unique, manic charms. By the end, it’s most likely you’ll be laughing at the antics of the bite-sized comic – whose style is reminiscent of an over-enthusiastic puppy nipping at your ankles – even if you’re not sure why. This is why Ice Cube is the perfect audience proxy as Hart’s tough and taciturn counterpart; while he initially wants to bat the irritating pup away, Hart’s persistence and moxie are difficult to resist.
“Ride Along” saw Cube as James Patton, a hard-boiled detective of few words, pressured by his sister Angie (Tika Sumpter) to take her boyfriend Ben (Hart) along for a ride, on which disastrous capers, and some unlikely detective work, ensued. In “Ride Along 2,” directed again by Tim Story, James heads for parts south after a “Fast and the Furious”-style opener, in which he uncovers a mysterious USB drive from a drug dealer with a hacker’s calling card leading him Miami. You can guess who begs to go along for the ride again. This time, Ben’s a fresh police academy graduate, who’s a bit of an idiot-savant when it comes to law enforcement.
In South Beach, James and Ben link up with hacker AJ (a loopy Ken Jeong), and another tough homicide cop Maya Cruz (Olivia Munn). They make an odd foursome, with Ben and AJ bonding over their nerdy hobbies, and Maya and James sharing a similarly serious approach (“It’s like watching rams mate,” Ben spits in disgust). Jeong makes a surprisingly good foil for Hart – the two comedians both subvert the stereotypes of their outward appearances – balancing the qualities that make them less-than-macho with over-the-top braggadocio and ego. AJ the hacker turns out to quite the ladies man, and Ben has no qualms embracing his feminine side, whether it’s in his overzealous wedding planning or his choice of undergarment.
The plot itself is run-of-the-mill cop comedy stuff, with Benjamin Bratt delivering the villain role as a suave Miami heavyweight who’s smuggling drugs and other contraband. The story beats are well-trodden, the action sequences and visual effects nothing more than serviceable, if chaotic, but there’s fun to be had in “Ride Along 2” thanks to Hart and Jeong, who play fast and loose with the tropes. All Ben wants is to prove himself as a cop and a brother, but he doesn’t feel the need to change anything about his metrosexual nerd persona, finding strength in it. All those hours of video games somehow pay off.
In spite of this progressive attitude toward masculinity, the film is rife with lazily executed stereotypes about women – what they might wear to go bikini shopping, and what might make them jealous – but the larger female roles are fierce too, including Sherri Shepherd as a rabid wedding planner who spars with Groomzilla Ben. “Ride Along 2” takes quite a bit of time to pick up speed, and doesn’t have the verve and energy of the first film, but it has its moments, particularly when Hart hits the gas on his signature zingers.