When we last saw wannabe cop Ben Barber, played by Kevin Hart, and surly Atlanta detective James Payton, played by rapper Ice Cube, the two men had overcome their differences, cracked a major case and come to grips with the fact that they would be family once Ben married James’ sister, Angela (Tika Sumpter). That was two years ago, in “Ride Along,” a modest hit directed by Tim Story (“Think Like a Man”).
Time clearly does not fly in this burgeoning buddy-cop franchise, because in “Ride Along 2,” Ben has only recently graduated from the police academy and is still on the verge of marrying Angela. Time moves slowly within the movie itself, too. Like the first film, this sequel has two appealing stars in the bouncy Hart and the glowering Cube, but its weak gags and thin plot don’t give them much to work with.
The premise this time is that James needs to follow a drug ring case that leads to Miami, and Ben begs to join him. The change of location is driven purely by cinematic concerns, of course. It offers a glamorous new backdrop, gives the director several chances to show scantily-clad women and allows Hart to dress in an absurd guayabera and straw hat. While in Miami, Ben and James encounter Maya, a no-nonsense cop played by an overly sour Olivia Munn. A little spark arises between her and James, a cute idea that should have been explored further.
Ken Jeong, as the usual nerdy hacker with valuable information, is ostensibly this film’s major guest star, though he seems slightly underused and never quite feels like part of the Hart-Cube team. Unexpectedly, Benjamin Bratt gives the movie a slight tingle of danger and sexuality as Antonio Pope, a corrupt businessman. Against the backdrop of a lavish party, Pope whisks Maya off her feet in a classic dance-with-the-devil sequence, and Bratt’s physical grace sells it nicely.
Surely that wasn’t supposed to be the highlight of this action-comedy, but when you’re at a “Ride Along” movie, you take what you can get.