You could probably get more entertainment — and certainly more intellectual stimulation — from playing with Hot Wheels cars for 20 minutes than you could from watching the nearly two hours of "2 Fast 2 Furious."

If anything, this sequel to the brain-dead 2001 hot-rodding hit is even more brain-dead. And it's infinitely more cornball and cheesy.

Yet it's a distinct improvement over the first film. The filmmakers make a smart move of addition by subtraction — ditching the mumbly, morose (and high-priced) Vin Diesel and replacing him with model and former veejay Tyrese, who's considerably more interesting on the big screen.

However, the film is still saddled with Paul Walker, an acting mannequin so lacking in personality and discernible acting talent that he makes Keanu Reeves look like the second coming of Robert De Niro.

Walker reprises his role here as Brian O'Conner, a former undercover cop who now finds himself racing for cash on the streets of Miami after being

busted by police there. But they have a proposition for him — they'll drop the charges if he'll help them take down crime kingpin Carter Verone (Cole Hauser, who appears to have watched "Scarface" one time too many).

But Brian's got to have a partner, so he visits Roman Pearce (Tyrese), an old friend who's under "house arrest" in California. But since Brian got him busted, he wants nothing to do with him.

There are other complications, primarily in the form of Verone's beautiful girlfriend, Monica Fuentes (Eva Mendes). Brian has his eye on her, and, as it turns out, she's working for the feds.

Director John Singleton (a director for hire here, rather than a writer/director) keeps the action moving fast enough to get past some of the plot holes. The dialogue's still hilariously awful, though. And the hopelessly bland Walker doesn't even try to emote, instead merely standing around and looking vacuous (which appears to be the extent of his skill).

Fortunately, the supporting cast of models and musicians is somewhat better, especially Tyrese, whose quick-with-a-quip character is the film's brightest element . . . aside from all of the colorful, souped-up vehicles.

"2 Fast 2 Furious" is rated PG-13 for violence (vehicular, fisticuffs, gunplay and explosive mayhem), scattered use of strong profanity, vulgarity (sexual innuendo and gestures), a scene of torture and close-ups of rather revealing swimsuits. Running time: 108 minutes.


E-MAIL: jeff@desnews.com