By John Mulderig
Catholic News Service
NEW YORK (CNS) — During World War II, when scarce supplies of gasoline had to bepreserved for military use, a familiar government poster asked civilian motorists: "Is Your Trip Necessary?"
That same question might aptly be put tothe characters who hit the road in the largely pointless comedy sequel "RideAlong 2" (Universal).
In following up on his 2014 film, director Tim Story benefits from a script –penned by returning screenwriters Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi — that tones downthe original’s relentless vulgarity. At least in this case, however, anelevated vocabulary fails to carry with it a higher quotient of laughs.
Nor does the second chapter of this odd-couple story pairing crusty Atlanta copJames Payton (Ice Cube) with Ben Barber (Kevin Hart), the happy-go-luckywannabe policeman who’s about to marry James’ sister, Angela (Tika Sumpter),feel any more convincing than its predecessor.
Ben’s exploits in the last go-round have won him a tryout on the force. But easilyexasperated James remains unconvinced. So he brings Ben along on a trek toMiami, hoping their investigation of a Florida philanthropist named AntonioPope (Benjamin Bratt) — whose wealth may be based on underworld activities –will prove that the novice lacks what it takes.
Aside from kindling nostalgia for the hit 1980s TV series "Miami Vice," and providingJames with a love interest in the person of hard-driving Sunshine Statedetective Maya (Olivia Munn), the duo’s journey accomplishes very little.
It’s not a good sign that the dialogue’s closest approach to genuine wit comes witha joke that depends, for its full effect, on viewers’ memory of a popular soulsingle that rode the charts close to 45 years ago. Still, diehard Luther Ingramfans will no doubt be pleased.
The shootouts and explosions that pepper James and Ben’s sleuthing are all keptwithin stylized bounds. But there’s little of substance to be detected amid theflying bullets and slapstick chases.
Ben entreats James to give in to the bonds of family, enthusiastically dubbingtheir investigative partnership, "The Brothers-in-Law." James remains unmoved,of course, though his love for Angela eventually motivates him to give Ben atleast some grudging acknowledgement.
Slim comic pickings and paltry human interest suggest that all but the leastdemanding viewers would be well advised to skip this trip.
The film contains considerable gunplay and other violence, cohabitation, about ahalf-dozen uses of profanity and frequent crude and crass language. The CatholicNews Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Associationof America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may beinappropriate for children under 13.
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Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.