“Ride Along 2” is just like its predecessor, in that both seem destined for heavy rotation on TNT, to be half-watched for a few minutes at a time by channel-surfers and laundry-folders. Which is probably the best way to ingest a good-naturedly dumb action comedy like this one, as prolonged exposure may cause irritation.
In this installment, mean-faced Atlanta police detective James Payton (Ice Cube) is again paired with his sister’s pocket-sized screech owl of a fiancé, Ben Barber (Kevin Hart), now fresh out of the academy and eager to prove he’s a great cop. He isn’t, though; he’s actually dangerously inept, prone to shooting people in a panic. So when the opportunity arises for James to go to Miami in pursuit of an informant, he elects to take Ben with him, precisely so the latter can show his incompetence and be kicked off the force once and for all.
The plot is standard-issue buddy-cop stuff: a slick, respected businessman named Antonio Pope (Benjamin Bratt) is secretly a top smuggler of guns and drugs, with multiple city officials on his bribe list. (The movie tells us this up front so we don’t have to worry about solving any mysteries.) James and Ben are after A.J. (Ken Jeong), a chatterbox hacker with knowledge of Pope’s operation, and are assisted by no-nonsense Miami detective Maya (Olivia Munn). These two characters are a welcome addition to the mix, giving James and Ben new people to spar with and letting someone other than Kevin Hart be the pest for once. When the four of them are driving together — Ben and A.J. in the backseat being annoying, James and Maya glowering from up front — you get a brief glimpse of what an amusing ensemble they could be if someone wanted to make them into one.
Meanwhile, back in Atlanta, Ben’s betrothed (Tika Sumpter) makes preparations with the wedding planner, Cori (Sherri Shepherd), who for some reason is constantly battling with Ben. So deep and immediately demonstrated is this animus that I assumed it had begun in the first “Ride Along” and I just didn’t remember it. But no, Cori wasn’t in that movie, and her character contributes nothing to this one.
Returning director Tim Story and writers Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi score a few laughs amid the formulaic car chases and shootouts, and the rest of it passes amiably. I think I enjoyed this one more than the first one, though still not enough to recommend it or watch it again. I might pause for a minute if I flip past it, though.
C+ (1 hr., 51 min.; )