A sure-bet time-waster with a clutch of big laughs? A 100-minute brief on Hollywood's lack of imagination? Grist for future essays about how quickly the idea of Ice "Fuck tha Police" Cube playing a gun-happy hero cop became routine? Whatever you make of Ride Along 2 beforehand is certain to be what you make of it as you cruise with it. Tim Story's sequel is made up entirely of scenes you've seen before, starring actors you're familiar with doing the kinds of things that they usually do. Like your smartphone, it's a testament to the theory of interchangeable parts, a perfectly engineered product that, if you're charitable, you might also think of in terms of art. There's certainly culture-pretzeled weirdness to behold: the tense early scene where Cube confronts Atlanta's top drug dealer, a scary white man, until pipsqueak Kevin Hart bounces up in a low-rider Impala, bumping Iggy Azalea's "Fancy"? When I fire my pistol, you can start your thinkpieces.
But every time I started to believe that there's some parodic impulse behind the filmmakers' re-casting of cliches, Cube's character would punch a suspect in custody or commit some other violation of civil liberties that the film invites us to cheer. Sill, Kevin Hart movies belong to Kevin Hart the way Sonny Rollins albums belong to Sonny, no matter who's in the band. Hart doesn't get as much solo time here as he did in The Wedding Ringer, but there are some hilarious rants that will stand out even on his already swollen highlight reel.