Your enjoyment of “Ride Along 2” will be directly linked to your enjoyment of Kevin Hart. The follow up to the wildly successful 2014 buddy cop comedy once again pairs Hart and Ice Cube but it is the comedian who dominates.
Ben Barber (Hart) is a beat cop one month out of the academy. He seems to have learned more about being a cop from playing video games than from the Academy, but nonetheless, he is determined to shadow his soon-to-be-brother-in-law James Payton (Ice Cube) when the Atlanta vice cop travels to Miami to track down a hacker (Ken Jeong). Ben thinks the Miami run will prove to everyone he should be a detective and while James doesn’t want the young cop tagging along, he agrees in the hope that the trip will prove Ben isn’t ready to move up the chain. In Miami they team up with a homicide cop (Olivia Munn) as the case takes a new and dangerous turn.
At the “Ride Along 2” screening I was at I sat across the aisle from a man who must be the world’s biggest Kevin Hart fan. He giggled and guffawed throughout. I’m glad he enjoyed the movie and hope Hart continues to delight him for years to come. Me, I didn’t find his antics quite as funny. He’s a whirling dervish, a nonstop bundle of energy who will do anything to get a laugh. He’s like a Jack Russell puppy that is always happy to see you and jumps in your lap all the time. At first its cute but as time goes by it gets annoying.
I admire his commitment but think he’s caught a bad case of Will Ferrellitus, a disease that affects famous comedians who have no self-control in the urge to get a giggle. The only cure is a director who understands that often less is more. Tim Story is not that director.
Ice Cube, on the other hand, is used well, displaying his trademark scowl with menace and humour. It’s a shame that Maya, film’s primary female character played by Olivia Munn, isn’t given more to do. Her presence here adds marquee value but little else.
“Ride Along 2” is a simple movie that relies on the A.B.C.’s of buddy cop movies: A.) Action. B.) Broad comedy. C.) Cleavage. All three are on display, although the action is by-the-book except for one sequence that blends video game action with real life. If more of the movie had this same kind of inventive spirit it might have been more fun.
The idea of turning self-help books into movies isn’t new. Fifty years ago Helen Gurley Brown’s guidebook “Sex and the Single Girl,” which featured advice on “How to be Sexy,” among other useful tips, was made into a film starring Natalie Wood and “Mean Girls” was an adaptation of the high school survival manual “Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughters Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and Other Realities of Adolescence.”
So the idea of the 2012 farce “Think Like a Man” based on Steve Harvey’s best-selling book, “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man,” wasn’t a stretch.
But now a sequel? The question is: How do you conjure a second story out of a book with no plot? Set it in Vegas and let Kevin Hart do all the heavy lifting.
The idea of Harvey’s tome is to give women an inside look into the workings of the male psyche and take control of their relationships. It’s typical battle of the sexes stuff and on film they play it for laughs.
The four couples from the original movie— Maya and Zeke (Meagan Good and Romany Malco), Dominic and Lauren (Michael Ealy and Taraji P. Henson), Jeremy and Kristen (Jerry Ferrara and Gabrielle Union) and Tish and Bennett (Wendi McLendon-Covey and Gary Owen)—plus the almost single Cedric (Kevin Hart) reunite in Las Vegas—“The number one destination in the world for people who do the craziest thing… get married.”—for “Think Like A Man Too.”
They’ve gathered for the wedding of Candace (Regina Hall) and Michael (Terrence Jenkins) but you know as soon as someone says, “I’m going to give you the perfect wedding… nothing is going to go wrong,” that, of course, everything is going to go wrong. The romantic getaway is jeopardized when the bachelorette and bachelor parties spin out of control.
“Think Like a Man Too” plays like a tamer version of “The Hangover.” There’s even a cameo from a world champion boxer but “TLAMT” doesn’t have the cynical edge of the Bradley Cooper movie. Instead, it plays it safe, making Sin City look like a wild but not terribly dangerous place to get married. All the usual Vegas clichés are well represented, from the gambling montage to the glaring neon lights to flaming cocktails to skimpy bikini-clad women to male strippers. What happens in Vegas also happens in the movies… quite often. The only thing missing is an Elvis impersonator or two.
Director Tim Story moves the story—what there is of it—along faster than a spinning roulette wheel. Montages and music video interludes keep the pace up, disguising the fact that there isn’t much going on. The story is thin, despite the multiple storylines crisscrossing throughout.
Kevin Hart seems to be trying to singlehandedly make up for a dearth of story by pulling out all the stops. No pratfall or face pull is beyond him. He even recreates Tom Cruise’s “Risky Business” underwear dance. His hyperactive performance stands in stark contrast to the more laid back work from his co-stars, but it does add a splash of life to every scene he’s in. Only his enthusiastic reading of a line like, “I’m sick of this non-tourage,” could pull laughs from some of this material.
“Think Like a Man Too” is a thin story bolstered by a few laughs (courtesy of Hart) and good-looking people navigating the choppy waters of modern romance. The advice contained within has more Hart than actual heart and is unlikely to provide much self-help, but has the same kind of bland appeal as its predecessor.