Ride Along 2

Maybe the trick is to begin with low expectations, which I did. And then I was pleasantly surprised. This “cop buddy comedy” is actually funny, mostly because it doesn't try to be humorous throughout. It interperses a “real” plot, which is always tricky from the “suspension of disbelief” point of view, but somehow we're just havin' fun here and catchin' the bad guys and throwin' in some street cred while we're doin' it. For real.
We begin with everybody's favorite sidekick, Ken Jeong as “A.J.,” sitting at his laptop on a big yacht, catching some porn action until his boss shows up. Antonio Pope (Benjamin Bratt) is obviously a player in the Miami drug smuggling pantheon, but he's got other secrets: he's cleverly disguised as a rich philanthropist for police charity causes. This way, he gets to keep an eye on what the Law is doing, and how close they are to suspecting him. Right now they have no clue. But “A.J.” knows, and “A.J.” has also figured out how to skim some money off the top, since he's the one in charge of encryption security. But in his eagerness to keep tabs on his boss, he accidentally overhears a “hit” on the head of the Port Authority, because he wasn't accepting the kickback that Pope was offering.
What does all this have to do with our heroes, the Atlanta cops? They've traced a new line of drug supply from Miami, and are sent by their boss to find the link. James (Ice Cube) is the main detective on the case, but his soon-to-be-brother-in-law, Ben (Kevin Hart), a trainee, also gets to tag along, but he must be back for the wedding that weekend.
Ben is over-the-top eager to make a name for himself, and mostly he messes up by losing his cool and talking too much, but every once in a while he makes a keen insight. James has noticed this, and tells the Miami detective they're working with, Maya (Olivia Munn), that though Ben acts like a buffoon, he really could be helpful if he can stay out of the way long enough.
Yes, there's a lot of scatalogical language, including in the rap music sound track. Yes, there's violence, though it's cops against gangsters, so we're supposed to be rooting for the good guys, right? Yes, there's lots of sexual innuendo, but not really any actual nudity---just some eye candy thrown in for visual effect. The relational tension comes not only from the James and Ben repartee, but also James' sister, Angela (Tika Sumpter) asking James to get Ben out of town for a few days because he's trying too hard to control the wedding planning. (Who's really in charge of the seating chart, anyway? And the choice of flowers?) Ben constantly spars with the professional wedding planner, even long-distance, while still trying to wrap up the big case before the weekend.
As we all know, the movies leading up to the Oscars nominations have already been released, and nobody thinks that “Ride Along 2” will be one of them. But it's just a lighthearted comedy/drama that pleasantly surprises, as long as you don't expect too much.

Questions For Discussion:
  1. What happens when the bride and the groom can't agree on seating arrangements at the reception? Does the groom automatically defer?
  2. What percentage of drug dealers do you think hide behind “legitimate” businesses?
  3. Should crooked politicians be judged with greater strictness?

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association