'Along' for a 'Ride' 2

Ice Cube and Kevin Hart phone in buddy comedy

Picture if you will: a screenwriting team banging out a feature film script one day before lunch. That image was more vivid to me than anything before my eyes in "Ride Along 2," a witless, worthless buddy-cop sequel that gives new meaning to "lazy."

An uninspired sequel is nothing new in Hollywood, but "Ride Along 2" is as played out and unfunny as they come, not only in rehashing the dynamic of the original film but in third-generation photocopying a slew of 1980s buddy-cop movies (your "Lethal Weapon"s) by way of their 1990s ripoffs (your "Bad Boys"es). At least the buddy-cop movies of recent years have mostly paid us the courtesy of adding some novelty, such as the period buddy comedies "Shanghai Noon" and "Shanghai Knights" or, more commonly, sending up the cliches of the genre, as in, say, "The Other Guys" or "21 Jump Street".

But, nah, "Ride Along" screenwriters Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi are content to reteam Ice Cube's veteran Atlanta P.D. cop James Payton and Kevin Hart's fresh-out-of-the-academy Ben Barber, stage a dumb catch-the-Miami-coke-trafficker plot, throw in Ken Jeong (filling the bill of Joe Pesci's crook-turned-ally in the "Lethal Weapon"s) and a subplot about Ben marrying James' sister in a week, slap "The brothers-in-law are back" on the poster, and call it a day.

Now, don't get me wrong. With a snappy script, the right actors having fun, and a director attuned to comedy and big-scale action, the formula can still work, even unironically. But "Ride Along 2" puts none of these elements in place: it's alternatingly shrill and dishwater dull as it plays the car-chase card; the swanky-party-with-"sexy"-dance-number card -- some footwork between baddie Benjamin Bratt and lady-cop Olivia Munn, both seemingly embarrassed to be there; the stakeout card; the container-yard-faceoff card, complete with gunfight and explosions; and the sunny-wedding-resolution card.

With all the blithe sexism and tin-eared comedy of a Michael Bay movie but none of the budget excess, director Tim Story mostly seems to have given up, his one innovation being to turn the car chase literally into a "Grand Theft Auto"-style video game in Ben's head. Jeong's dead-eyed-naughty shtick is way past its sell-by date, and Hart and Cube play it strictly by the frowning and screaming numbers, respectively. Ice Cube speaks every line of dialogue like he's shoving it in your ear, but he may have the last laugh at the box office by shoving this movie at casual moviegoers and thus once again proving his commercial savvy. Is it too much to hope that producing and starring in a movie that tries so little will haunt his dreams?

Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence, sexual content, language and some drug material. One hour, 41 minutes.

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