By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The tagline in the ads says, “The brothers-in-law are back.”

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What’s left out is that “They were better the first time and they didn’t have much going for them then either.”

The reference is to the teaming of Kevin Hart and Ice Cube in 2014’s tepid but popular action comedy, Ride Along.

But the sequel is not even its equal.

If you rode along with the original, you may be fine riding along with the sequel. But don’t expect much in the way of Ride Along 2 being more than a long ride. Backwards.

Of course, if you’re a big fan of diminutive comic actor Kevin Hart and feel that the he and his trademark motormouth comic persona can do no wrong, you’ll probably be entertained.

(1½ stars out of 4)

(1½ stars out of 4)

Ride Along 2 is – big surprise – another generic action comedy with Ice Cube again playing straight man to funnyman Hart, with guns seen as nothing more than toys that make noise and bullet wounds merely minor cosmetic annoyances.

As before, Hart plays Ben Barber, the former high school security guard who has now graduated from the police academy and although he is still in the probationary period, he has indeed become a detective, just like blustery James, played by Ice Cube, whose brother-in-law Ben aspires to be by marrying Angela (Tika Sumter), James’ little sister, whom James raised.

With the wedding scheduled in just a couple days, an enthusiastic Ben and a reluctant James are sent on assignment to Miami to pursue a lead they have connected to a drug ring they’re investigating.

In Miami, the brothers-in-law-to-be confront a homicide detective, played by Olivia Munn, and a computer hacker, played by Ken Jeong, who reveals evidence that allegedly implicates a respected businessman.

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Their mission now, and they’ve chosen to accept it, is to prove that that executive, Antonio Pope, played by Benjamin Bratt, is in reality a crime lord ruling the south Florida drug trade.

Director Tim Story (Think Like a Man, Think Like a Man Too, Fantastic Four, Taxi, Barbershop), who was at the helm of the original, returns to the director’s chair for the follow-up and proceeds to deliver what boils down to a been-there-done-that standup routine by comic Hart with a nobody-really-cares narrative wrapped around it.

The all-filler-and-no-meat screenplay is by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi, who return after serving as half of the original’s writing committee.

As before, the script and the finished product traffic in unnecessarily frequent gun battles – for a comedy, anyway – and over-the-top, cartoon violence, with bullets sprayed all over the place throughout improbably crowded scenes, from the opening sequence on.

The original featured a few big laughs delivered by Hart and plenty of dead spots as well.

But with fewer legitimate laughs and longer dead spots this time around, the attempted carbon-copy sequel makes the original look strong by comparison.

Ice Cube again serves as one of the film’s producers and brings along his frozen glare, his main on-screen duty being to ride along with that straight face during Hart’s comedic riffs.

But with Story working with precious little story, Hart is asked to work much too hard to generate laughs in a movie brimming with empty energy, half-baked slapstick, and sloppily edited action sequences.

So we’ll get behind the wheel of 1-1/2 stars out of 4 for Ride Along 2, which pretty much wastes the considerable talents of its central comic icon and ends up registering as dis-Hart-ening.

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