Rapper-turned-actor Ice Cube and stand-up comedian Kevin Hart are a promising comedic duo. It’s just too bad the material falls woefully short of their abilities in the buddy-cop comedy “Ride Along 2.” Director Tim Story’s follow-up to the 2014 original, is more of the same. I shudder to think how awful the movie would be without its two stars.

The fast-talking Hart has a blast playing Ben Barber, a fresh-out-of-the-academy street cop with designs on becoming a detective. His nervous brand of excitability is (usually) funny, but always endearing. The hyper Hart is the comic sidekick to Cube’s straight man. Cube snarls like no other as James Payton, a hard-edged Atlanta Police Department detective. The film revs up in the week leading to Ben’s marriage to James’ beautiful sister, Angela (Tika Sumpter). After some pat set-up – a murder and a soured drug deal, the script sends Ben and James to South Beach to find a criminal hacker (Ken Jeong from the “Hangover” movies) involved in an Atlanta drug ring. While there, they tangle with a shipping kingpin (Benjamin Bratt) and stumble into a murder investigation with a Miami homicide detective (Olivia Munn, slumming), who shows up to crime scenes wearing sports bras. At least she gets to dance a sexy salsa with Bratt’s villain. Plotwise, you know how it’s all going to end before the movie even shifts into gear. It’s a carbon copy of the first film.

The best I can say is Story (“Barbershop”) keeps “Ride Along 2” driving at a (mostly) lively clip, especially a video-game-inspired car chase, and he bathes Miami in a glossy sheen with plenty of bikini-clad babes. There is little that is original in the script from Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi, the duo who penned the first installment. How many jokes about Hart’s small stature does one movie need?

For his part, Hart lands a decent sight gag, driving a hopping lowrider whose hydraulics malfunction. A short scene involving the ringtones on Jeong’s character’s phone is the funniest bit of the movie. A subplot involving Ben butting heads with his wedding planner (a squandered Sherri Shepherd) provides a few smiles. And speaking of smiles, when Cube finally does flash those pearly whites, it matters, but you don’t care – or at least I didn’t. The cantankerous cop thing (he did it in the “Jump Street” movies too) is growing tiresome. And, if the crowd-pleasing reaction from the audience I saw it with is any indication of how this will do at the box office, then a third movie is likely coming. Let’s hope the next “Ride Along” gives Hart and Cube something more worthy of their talents – and our attention.

Dana Barbuto may be reached at dbarbuto@ledger.com or follow her on Twitter @dbarbuto_Ledger.

Movie review

RIDE ALONG 2

(PG-13 for sequences of violence, sexual content, language and some drug material.)

Cast: Ice Cube, Kevin Hart, Olivia Munn, Ken Jeong, Benjamin Bratt, Tika Sumpter.

Grade: C