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‘Ride Along’ starts with some promise before crashing

For everybody getting sick of all these good and great movies in theaters right now, there’s “Ride Along 2,” which is not in the same league as even the first “Ride Along,” much less “The Revenant,” “Carol,” “Brooklyn” and “The Big Short.” It’s a formula movie, which wouldn’t necessarily be a problem, except that it’s a sort of bad version of itself.

“RIDE ALONG 2”

Rated PG-13

*
Opens today

In the original “Ride Along,” the pairing of Kevin Hart and Ice Cube had a certain appeal. The notion of the relentless Hart in collision with the impassive Cube was amusing just to think about, and the filmmakers were able to fashion an action comedy that lived up to expectations — barely, but still. Hart is a very funny guy, and Cube is a good straight man, and with decent material, they couldn’t fail.

But they can’t make something out of nothing, and to watch “Ride Along 2” is to get the sense of a screenplay that was never right, that was just pushed along on the faith the actors could rescue it. For the record, the start is decent enough. First, the movie establishes Benjamin Bratt as the suave villain, a drug dealer and smuggler who poses as a philanthropist. This is followed by a genuinely funny scene in which Hart, as a rookie cop, blows his cover in a stakeout and puts his colleagues at risk.

But the moment the story kicks in, the movie starts to collapse. James (Cube), an Atlanta detective, is assigned to put together a team and go to Miami to investigate a murder. Ben (Hart), his future brother-in-law, is desperate to accompany him, but James refuses. And then James relents.

Because Hart is a real actor, he doesn’t just play jokes. He tries to make sense of the script he’s given, and what he’s given is a character who has no judgment, never shuts up and seems driven by an irrational compulsion to prove his worth. In a merely comic character, that might be fine, but “Ride Along 2” asks us to take Ben seriously, and when we do, the laughs fall away.

It’s one thing not to believe that James would take him to Miami. It’s another thing to start wishing that he hadn’t, and yet another to start wishing they’d all stayed home. These are the stages a viewer goes through when watching “Ride Along 2.”

Olivia Munn appears as a Miami cop, who joins the men on their adventures. Her purpose in the movie is more or less to show up in scenes looking like Olivia Munn. She deserves a lot better than “Ride Along 2.”

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