Ride Along 2

Ice Cube and Kevin Hart reteam for more of the same

Ice Cube and Kevin Hart in 'Ride Along 2.' Credit: Quantrell D. Colbe

It should be fun to watch Kevin Hart and Ice Cube in a comedy. Sadly, it’s a stretch to call Ride Along 2 "a comedy." It's simply a retread of the first Ride Along, a 2014 box-office hit,  and proof positive that a bigger budget doesn’t buy bigger laughs.

If you want to play catch-up, here goes: Ben Barber (Hart) has moved up from his job as an Atlanta security guard. He's now a rookie cop trying to follow in the footsteps of James Payton (Cube) the hard-assed detective whose sister, Angela (Tika Sumpter), is making the supreme mistake of marrying the little bastard who is a perpetual thorn in James' side. When these bickering, almost brothers-in-law take off to Miami to track drug lord Antonio Pope (Benjamin Bratt), it's a chance for Ben to show he's got the stuff. And a chance for James, who hates the motormouthed pest he calls a "dwarf," to get rid of Ben once and for all.

That's right, folks. It's the same damn plot as before moved to a new location. The fresh additions are Ken Jeong (doing his standard Ken Jeong schtick) as a hacker and the delectable Olivia Munn as a possible cop love interest for James. Tim Story directs as if he's painting by the numbers. He is. And screenwriters Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi don’t even show that much energy.

A laugh could die of loneliness in this setup if it weren’t for the two stars. Cube, enjoying the fruits of seeing his own life as a gangsta rapper on screen in the superb Straight Outta Compton, which he produced and Oscar stupidly ignored, has gone from rapping "Fuck Tha Police" to joining them. The idea still makes me grin. And Cube clearly enjoys slapping his most menacing glares on his costar. Hart, a comic force of nature in concert, damn near knocks himself out trying to breathe life into this sequel and pulls off a stylishly funny car chase right out of Grand Theft Auto. Still, this sequel keeps flapping around desperately like a fish out of water. Hart and Cube are too good to settle for hawking leftovers. They deserve better. So do we.