Review: Ride Along
PLOT: A straight-laced cop decides to take his future brother-in-law, an over-confidant security guard, on an intentionally hectic ride along in the hopes he'll dissuade him from marrying his sister and joining the police force.
REVIEW: RIDE ALONG was my first prolonged exposure to Kevin Hart. I'm familiar with his popularity as a stand-up comedian, which is significant enough that the GRUDGE MATCH marketing department thought he was the most bankable thing about that particular film, but up until now his appeals have been unknown to me. After seeing RIDE ALONG, which positions him to be a breakout star, I must admit that his appeal is still pretty much up in the air. That is to say, he surely has the potential to be funny - he's in possession of some charisma and is clearly comfortable doing whatever it takes for a laugh in front of the camera - but the movie's material is so well-worn, and the schticks given to Hart so quickly tiresome, that he often seems like he's trying to get blood from a stone. No matter how much he jerks and screeches, he's not improving the film's lack of genuine humor.
The story is one we've seen plenty of times, a buddy-cop movie about two mismatched partners who bicker intensely but ultimately respect each other. On one hand you have Ice Cube playing James Payton, a take-no-shit cop on the hunt for a mysterious drug kingpin named Omar. (How weird is it seeing the former NWA rapper playing an honorable cop?) On the other, you have Hart as Ben Barber, a school security guard who desperately wants to join the police academy; this desire even more intense considering he's dating Payton's beautiful sister, Angela (Tika Sumpter). Payton can't stand the fact that his baby sister is dating the spazzed-out Ben, mostly because of a barbecue accident years ago that apparently left the former engulfed in flames, and he certainly doesn't think Ben has what it takes to join the force, so Payton endeavors to squash both passions by taking him on a ride along filled with turmoil and chaos. Of course, Payton does not count on Ben's surprising resourcefulness and helpful knowledge of large caliber guns (he's an avid gamer) to help in his quest to bring down Atlanta's biggest crime boss.
So it's essentially 48 HRS. meets TRAINING DAY, without the grit, guts or swagger of either. (TRAINING DAY in particular receives several shout-outs, including a sequence where Hart basically recites the monologue from Denzel Washington's climatic scene.) It gets repetitive fast; RIDE ALONG's many tangents, involve a stopover at a playground, a shooting range, and a strip club, and they're all designed exactly the same way: Ben struts in, exudes unreasonable confidence, then quickly falls to pieces as the situation escalates. Often the comedian just starts screaming; how many times are we supposed to slap our knee as Ben whines and cries after guns start blazing and he's forced to cower? He certainly seems capable of more than just buffoonery, but RIDE ALONG rarely gifts him with anything challenging.
Is it a complete slog? There are a handful of moments that provoked a chuckle from me - I thought it was strangely funny that Ben claims his father's name was "Asphalt" for some reason - but more often than not director Tim Story obviously allows scenes to go on past their expiration date in the hopes Hart will deliver a big laugh. Cube and Hart manage to cobble together some chemistry, but that's mostly thanks to the fact that Cube is a perfect straight-man, his facial expressions ranging from baffled to irritated to downright hateful, while Hart flops around him like an overly caffeinated child eager to please by any means necessary.
Furthermore, how many different ways can he be called short? A lot of different ways. Yes, Hart is certainly on the diminutive side, but I just started to feel bad for him after a while. Still, I suspect Hart's considerable fan base will find enough here to like if they're apt to give him the benefit of the doubt - I'll admit the audience I sat with appeared to enjoy every scene, so what the hell do I know?