By Will Ashton | firstname.lastname@example.org| @thewillofash
Ride Along | Directed by Tim Story | Rated PG-13
While a good one like Hot Fuzz or The Guard has crept up here and there, for the most part, these films have become tired, unimaginative bores that fail to do anything new or interesting with the genre. While the films mentioned above have proven that there is still some fun and creativity to be found, Hollywood’s attempts, especially in the past couple years, have been lazy, repetitive exercises that test both audiences’ patience and intelligence. (For the record, both the films mentioned above are from the U.K.)
Unfortunately, Ride Along doesn’t change a thing.
Ben Barber (Kevin Hart), a high school security guard, has big aspirations. In addition to his dream of being a cop, he is getting ready to marry the love of his life, Angela (Tika Sumpter), who’s brother happens to be James Payton (Ice Cube), a strict, tough cop. In an attempt to earn James’ respect, Ben agrees to go on a ride along with him, in a day that doesn’t quite turn out how either expected.
All right, I just have to ask: can we please wrap up Kevin Hart’s 15 minutes of fame?
Look, I’m sure he’s a nice enough guy. But after seeing him shove his persona in everything from Think Like a Man to This is the End to The Five Year Engagement to the upcoming About Last Night to Grudge Match (which I didn’t see, but have seen more than enough ads for on TV), it’s just getting old. And nowhere does it feel more tired and tedious than it does in Ride Along, his first film as a lead.
Now, I can agree that Hart can be amusing in small doses. A broken clock is right two times a day, and even a robot like myself can fall victim to a comedian’s charms from time to time. He brought a couple chuckles in This is the End, but, then again, I don’t think he was even in that movie for more than 3 minutes. Everything else has been a test to restraint (for me, certainly not for Hart). It’s the same thing over and over and over again, and it gets old very, very fast.
As the wild, goofy one to Cube’s no nonsense, straight man routine, Hart is given more room to push his cinematic presence than ever before. But he, and the script by Greg Coolidge, Jason Mantzoukas, Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi, fail to bring anything fun or interesting to the screen. As a result, they produce mainly an hour-and-a-half of jumping and screaming that seems more in line with a 5-year-old child than a grown adult. They want us to laugh along with this all, but after just 20 minutes of this, I wanted to put Hart in time out.
On the flip side, Cube has proven capable in comedies before. Both the original Friday and 21 Jump Street demonstrated that he was able to be funny when he wants to be, but Ride Along seems to hold him back for Hart’s shenanigans. As a result, his performance comes across as bored and uninspired. What’s strange about this is that Cube shares a producer credit for the film alongside staring.
Worse of all is the fact that, throughout the film, he is forced to quote lines from popular songs in a half-assed attempt to get a reference laugh. A part of the ‘90s in me dies having to hear Cube shoehorn in “today was a good day” as a piece of dialogue.
But, like romantic comedies, a buddy cop move can be saved by good chemistry from its leads. And, to be fair, Hart and Cube don’t have the worst chemistry together. They seem to banter off of each other fine enough, but I still can’t say they work well together. Cube’s bored performance seems to force Hart to go into overdrive, much like Tracy Morgan had to do for Bruce Willis in Cop Out, which makes everything feel forced and grating.
Ultimately, throughout Ride Along, I was reminded of other recent attempts to bring back the buddy cop comedy like the aforementioned Cop Out and last year’s The Heat. Much like those, Ride Along fails because it ties itself too close to the ‘80s buddy cop comedies of the past, and fails to make anything new or engaging with this genre. But at least The Heat and Cop Out had a couple teeth; Ride Along is mainly a toothless affair.
There has already been word that a sequel to Ride Along is brewing in Hollywood, but, truthfully, I don’t really see why. I’m sure it all just comes down to dollar signs (even I have to admit that Hart is exploding right now), but there is nothing here that makes it stand out from any other buddy cop movie that has already come out.
It goes through the motions in typical PG-13 fashion, therefore never pushing the envelope enough to make it feel fresh nor play it safe enough to make it a lighthearted adventure. Ultimately, it just moseys through one comedy set piece after another, only providing a half-hearted chuckle once or twice here and there. It’s not one of the worst buddy cop movies I have ever seen, but it certainly one of the laziest.