Kevin Hart is a taunt wrapped in a man’s body: He dares you to laugh at him, and if you’re like most people with a pulse, you will, though you may later ask yourself what was so funny.
In 2014’s Ride Along, Hart played wannabe Atlanta cop Ben, squaring off against James, an experienced detective played by Ice Cube. It didn’t help that Ben was also angling to marry James’ sister, Angela (Tika Sumpter). Ben gets a chance to spend a day on the force with James, hoping to prove himself to the man he hopes will one day be his brother-in-law. Madness ensues. Ride Along hinges on one central equation: Hart saying and doing nutty stuff while Ice Cube responds with his trademark thundercloud scowl.
Ride Along 2 offers pretty much more of the same Ride Along nonsense, with the same lead actors intact and the same director, Tim Story. Ben has inched a bit further in his career, having graduated from sitting on the couch and fumbling with video games to becoming a beat cop. He has also become engaged to Angela. Their wedding is fast approaching, though Ben is a little miffed that the bossy wedding planner (Sherri Shepherd) insists on hydrangeas (which he hates) and has failed to consult his dream book on Pinterest—it’s his wedding too, you know.
Ben is also upset that James is headed to Miami to investigate the activities of a big-deal businessman (an ultra-suave Benjamin Bratt) who just may be trafficking drugs. Ben wants to go along; James resists, until Angela intercedes. Overjoyed and overexcited, Ben dons his Miami-style white linen trousers and guayabera—soon to be filthy and mussed, naturally—and jumps right in, wasting no time in driving James crazy. A computer hacker, A.J. (Ken Jeong), and a hottie Miami cop, Maya (Olivia Munn), also join the fray.
Madness, once again, ensues. Despite the new setting and the addition of a few new secondary characters, Ride Along 2 is nearly indistinguishable from its predecessor. Except this time, Hart gets to chase Jeong through a series of Miami backyards, leaping fences and charging through neighborhood barbecues. (This is how the white linens meet their demise.) He also gets to visit a mansion where there just may be a Gucci toilet—if there is, he assures us, he’s going to sit on it. And he comes face-to-face with an alligator, whose toothy smile isn’t nearly as intimidating as Ice Cube’s glowering stare.
Through it all, Hart endures, taking rubbery pratfalls and spinning out ridiculous jokes with such crackerjack timing that you laugh, even when the material isn’t that funny. He’s an ingratiating performer—you get the sense that he’s working hard, every second, to entertain us. But damned if, at least some of the time, we don’t laugh anyway. It’s possible no one on the planet can really explain Hart’s gifts. At one point in Ride Along 2, James tries to parse Ben’s wackadoodle ways for Maya. Most of what Ben says, James notes, makes no sense. “But then the tenth thing goes beyond crazy, into an accidental genius round.” Maybe that’s how it is with Hart, too. Bet you a Gucci toilet you’ll laugh.