It’s been nearly two years exactly since the last Ride Along, and it seems a lot of the reasons the first one was criticized were handled. But that doesn’t mean new problems didn’t pop up along the way.
Trigger Warning(s): Gun Violence
Characters & Story (with Commentary)
Within 1 week, James (Ice Cube) and Ben (Kevin Hart) will become brothers. Something Angela (Tika Sumpter) is happy about as she plans for her wedding, but James remains a slight sour puss about. Mind you, he isn’t still trying to break up his sister and Ben, but his new plan does deal with trying to break Ben’s spirit and kill the man’s dreams of becoming a detective.
As for why? Well, because Ben is annoying as hell and gets James’ partner Mayfield (Tyrese Gibson) shot. Leaving him alone on a case which involves a hacker, named AJ (Ken Jeong), stealing money from an international weapons, drugs, and you name it, dealer named Antonio (Benjamin Bratt). That is until Angela convinces James to let Ben come along and James figures this case could be the wake-up call Ben has long needed.
As with any Kevin Hart film, you’re going to laugh. After all, he is a funny guy, and while I maintain the position of saying his “Grown Little Man” persona is starting to get old, it has been a few months since he has been seen so what is old is new again. Making for the scenes we see in the trailer, which are but a taste, remind you why this man is one of, if not the top comedians today.
As for new and improved things, the action in this film is incredible. There aren’t a lot of hand to hand fights, but between the gunfights, car chases, and things blowing up, oh my god! Granted, because of the tone of this film all the damage is only really done to property, and nothing truly gruesome happens to people, but compared to the first one your eyes are a bit more open to absorbing all that happens.
Unlike in the first film, the handling of the movie’s villain is a tab bit better. Antonio is visible, is a little bit more consistent, in terms of his persona matching his actions, and though we don’t get a strong backstory when it comes to Antonio, between his style, his dance moves, and the way he runs his empire, you are given just enough for him to not seem generic.
Like Kevin Hart, Ken Jeong presents himself in a similar way to what you often see, and almost expect, now from him. He is the weird Asian guy who likes to party, is highly inappropriate, and always finds himself in the center of trouble. Yet, despite highly similar characters, like Hart, Jeong seemingly is able to ride this shtick for laughs longer than you’d think would be possible.
In the first movie, Angela didn’t really evolve past being a love interest, and sadly she still remains the hot woman we see smile, be in her underwear, and worry about our hero’s safety.
While Antonio is an improvement over Omar, he still does similar stupid things. For whether it is letting Maya (Olivia Munn), of Miami PD, James, and Ben leave his party without being searched or any big rift, or not killing AJ when he had the chance, multiple times in the film you are left questioning how did this man make it big? For while he knows how to buy politicians, it seems his hitmen are incompetent, and he foolishly doesn’t monitor or keep tabs on, this one hacker who could so quickly, and easily, bring down his whole organization. Oh, and did I mention said hacker is the type to leave his name on his work which can lead him to be tracked down?
As you can expect from a film like this, eventually things get bad for our cops to the point their superior officers have to punish them. In the film, James got suspended, and Ben was supposed to have a probationary hearing which could have taken him off the force. Both these issues aren’t addressed at all, likely because they got their guy, but considering them made such a huge mess, you’d think at the very least James would have been in trouble for working while suspended, and Ben would have at least got a smack on the wrist or something.
On The Fence
Being that Ben is getting married, so comes the question of what is going on with James’ love life. Which, to be honest, I never questioned. For, as noted, James is a sort of generic, and stoic, figure. One which you don’t really wonder about, why is he single? Since the obvious answer is that he is married to his job. Yet, in the film, with the introduction of Maya, an almost female version of James, there is an attempt for a romantic sub-plot. Not a major one mind you, but one consistent enough to show that a Ride Along 3 may feature James walking down the aisle. But here is where the true “On The Fence” part comes: while Maya is a male version of James, is she developed that much more than Angela at all? I mean, she is good at her job, yeah, but we don’t learn why she wanted to be a cop, how or why she learned all these grips, and it sort of brings down this idea that she should be considered a character worth noting. For, at the end of the day, it seems like she is just another love interest in an action film, but one more useful than what we on average get.
Final Thought(s): TV Viewing
In the first Ride Along I counted around 45 laughs, and with this one I got 26. Part of the reason is because both Jeong and Hart maybe coming up with new jokes and scenarios, but their characters remain the same from one movie to the next. However, it is hard to deny both men still don’t know how to exploit said characters to the fullest. Which is one of the major things which saved this film. For while there was an improved villain, greatly improved action, and a story which was streamlined to accommodate a tone appropriate for this film, there remains this thought of this franchising still having vast room to improve. Hence the TV Viewing label for there are fewer reasons to laugh, moderate gains in quality, but ultimately this is a watch once, and never again, type of film.