‘Ride Along 2’: Coasting on Kevin Hart’s charm, tired cop shtick

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Straddling the line between flat-out farce and buddy-cop action movie, “Ride Along 2” is a slick, good-looking, fast-paced and profoundly unoriginal piece of work.

This is 100 minutes of recycled shtick — a cop film with no roots in actual police work, but a deep connection to dozens of other cop films. From the supervisor chewing out the rogue cops to the slick businessman who’s actually a crime lord to the obligatory big finale on the docks, “Ride Along 2” is the movie equivalent of a cover band. We’ve seen it all before, and often in much better films.

Director Tim Story’s follow-up to the 2014 hit reunites Ice Cube’s snarling veteran Atlanta cop James with Kevin Hart’s pesky motormouth Ben, the former high school security guard who is now a month out of the police academy and a week away from marrying James’ sister Angela (Tika Sumpter), whose main function in this film is to look beautiful and shake her head at Ben’s wacky antics.

Like this. Ben gets into a heated argument in his kitchen with wedding planner Cori (Sherri Shepherd), who is nixing all of his ideas. To make his point, Ben stands on a chair so he won’t appear so tiny. When Cori also stands on a chair, Ben climbs onto the table, right under the whirring ceiling fan …

Cue the cartoon slapstick.

Time and again, Ben is punched, kicked and pushed around. He falls from a second-story ledge, he lands on his face several times during a foot chase, he narrowly avoids being eaten by an alligator — and that’s only a partial list of Ben’s suffering. Yet, like a character in one of the violent video games Ben loves to play, he’s never really hurt. All of the aforementioned suffering (and more) is played for big, broad laughs. Sometimes it’s funny. Mostly it’s just loud and brutal and pointless.

Through a convoluted turn of the plot device, James and Ben make the trek from Atlanta to Miami to interview a possible witness on a case they’re working. This gives director Story and the team of screenwriters a chance to fill up the screen with many images of women in skimpy outfits gyrating about, whether they’re on the beach or in a nightclub or even working retail.

In fact, with the exception of that abrasive wedding planner, I’m fairly certain every other single female character in “Ride Along 2” appears in a bikini or halter top at some point. When Olivia Munn’s no-nonsense Miami homicide detective Maya shows up at a crime scene, she’s fresh from a workout, so of course she’s wearing tights and a sports bra, her badge dangling from a chain around her neck. Because she wouldn’t have a sweatshirt in the car or anything.

(In an earlier scene, Tika Sumpter’s Angela seduces Ben while wearing bra, panties and a naughty cop outfit. The scene feels about half-finished, with no payoff, when we cut to the next locale. Apparently the main goal was to get Tika Sumpter in a push-up bra.)

Ken Jeong has the Ken Jeong role as A.J., a squirrely, comic-relief hacker who is the key to cracking the big case. A.J. often cracks wise from the back of the car as Ben and James bicker the day away. The hyperactive Ben never shuts up and constantly screws up on a level that would have him facing criminal charges in the real world. The closed-off, perpetually growling James keeps telling Ben to shut up and to stay focused.

If either character has anything approaching a second dimension, it has eluded me through two movies.

Kevin Hart is an enormously talented stand-up comic and an instantly likable screen presence. Most of his movies haven’t been very good, but they make a lot of money. Hart has the talent and the charisma to take it to the next level and do stellar work in more challenging fare. In “Ride Along 2,” he’s on cruise control all the way.

[s3r star=2/4]

Universal Pictures presents a film directed by Tim Story and written by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi. Running time: 102 minutes. Rated PG-13 (for sequences of violence, sexual content, language and some drug material.). Opens Friday at local theaters. 

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