Y’know that old saying that sequels aren’t as good as the original? Take this movie for example: Ride Along, the 2014 hit comedy starring Ice Cube and Kevin Hart was a very funny and entertaining buddy-cop movie that, although it didn’t cover any new ground, was genuinely well-written and acted. This sequel, however, well…
We revisit our two heroes from Atlanta: diminutive rookie cop and annoying motor-mouth Ben Barber (Hart), is constantly getting himself into wild ‘n’ wacky predicaments despite his good intentions. His soon-to-be brother-in-law, James Payton (Cube), is a hard-nosed, by-the-book police detective who can’t stand Ben and just as soon put a bullet in him as have him as a family member. Y’see, Ben is marrying his beautiful sister, Angela (Tika Sumpter), so he has to put up with Ben’s goofy antics.
After an arrest goes south, James and Ben come into possession of a specially encrypted thumb-drive that could lead to a huge drug bust. The info was implanted by a master encryptor called A.J.(Ken Jeong) who works for Antonio Pope (Benjamin Bratt), a notorious Miami drug lord masquerading as a millionaire philanthropist. But what Pope doesn’t know is that A.J. has secretly embezzled funds from him and knows all about Pope’s murders and his plans to ship guns and drugs. Here’s where the boys come in!
James and Ben are sent to Miami to find A.J. about that thumb-drive, but instead get into all kinds of mischief and mayhem when A.J. becomes their friend and side-kick and decides to help them nail Pope. If this plot sounds alot like Lethal Weapon 2, it’s because it is. Anyway, the boys get help from the Miami P.D. and a gorgeous bad-ass homicide detective (aren’t they all?) named Maya Cruz (Olivia Munn).
Pope wants A.J. killed because of all the money he stole, so we get a bar shoot-out and a crazy car chase that is visualized by Ben as a video game (the movie’s best gag). The team goes undercover at Pope’s party to get his computer intel, where hijinks ensue involving Ben posing as an African diplomat. Naturally, the third act is the requisite ‘good guys get in trouble with their bosses and have to redeem themselves with a triumphant shoot-out with the bad guys at the shipping dock to clear their names’.
Written by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi, two of the original Ride Along writers, they obviously didn’t try for anything new here; it’s the same paint-by-numbers collection of silly gags, Hart’s annoying non-stop attempt at being funny (which occasionally works), random car and foot chases, and shoot-outs for excess filler. And don’t get me started on all the plot-holes! Geez Louise! If you saw the trailer, you saw all the truly funny bits in the movie.
Hart does what Hart does best; he’s a whirling dervish of comedy that can be hilarious when given the right material and direction. Director Tim Story, who did the first movie, does his best, but the lively comedy and timing just isn’t there. The guys come off as forced and unlikable here, almost as if they didn’t like doing this movie. The talented Munn has little to do here expect look damn nice and dance with Bratt, who at least has fun as the villain. I’ve seen Hart and Cube together on Conan O’Brien’s show, riffing and ad-libbing and they were a riot! Why couldn’t they translate that to the screen?
Lethal Weapon 3 (1992)
I love the Lethal Weapon franchise. There, I said it. Okay, maybe not so much part four, but parts one through three were a scintillating combination of explosive action and damn funny dialoge between hard-nosed Det. Murtaugh played by the great Danny Glover and his loose cannon partner, Martin Riggs (the fantastic Mel Gibson–before he went nuts). Their on-screen chemistry was perfection.
By part two, the franchise added the motor-mouthed annoying diminutive embezzler and side-kick, Leo Getz (a wonderful Joe Pesci) for added comic relief. His rapid fire delivery of “Okay-okay-okay-okay-okay” is now a catch-phrase. In Part Three, we open with a building explosion that is accidentally set off by Murtaugh and Riggs. Nice! The plot centers around crooked former police lieutenant Jack Travis (Stuart Wilson) who is secretly smuggling guns, but just any guns, but guns with armor-piercing bullets called “cop-killers”.
In their investigation, the guys find out that Leo (now a smarmy real estate agent) recognizes Travis as a housing developer and also where he may moving the illegal guns. While Leo is off on a fact-finding adventure, Murtaugh and Riggs are introduced to their new partner, Sgt. Lorna Cole (beautiful Rene Russo), a gorgeous bad-ass cop that can even handle Riggs! In one of the film’s funniest moments, Riggs and Cole disrobe in front of each other. . .to boast and compare body scars of past altercations they’ve had in a game of one-upmanship.
But when the boy’s Captain Murphy (Steve Kahan) is kidnapped by Travis because he found out about the guns, all hell breaks loose. Travis’ housing construction site becomes ground zero for the climatic shoot-out where Cole almost gets killed. In the end, the bad guys lose, the good guys win, Murtaugh gets to finally retire, and Riggs hooks up with Cole whom he later marries inbetween parts three and four.
Directed again by the brilliant Richard Donner and yet another cracker-jack script by Jeffrey Boam with Robert Mark Kamen, this was another winner at the box office. As in all franchises, by part three you’ve got to add a female interest, and adding Rene Russo was pure genius. She was both kick-ass and demur and nicely ingratiated herself as part of the team. It’s a shame that by part four the magic had gone by making Russo pregnant, Riggs’ marriage on the skids, and adding Chris Rock as the new partner.