Ride Along is basically what you’d expect from a movie starring Kevin Hart and Ice Cube about a man who needs his girlfriend’s brother’s approval before they can marry. Ice Cube plays the snarling undercover police officer brother, and Hart bumps around and looks silly as the underachieving, diminutive boyfriend.
The movie has its moments, mostly involving Hart’s character, Ben, as he tries to work his way up from his current position as a high school security guard to the local police force. He is excited when he gets an invitation from James (Ice Cube) to shadow him for the day, hoping the experience will earn him both a future brother-in-law and the goodwill of the department. If you like the actor as I do, his giddiness will have you on the side of the beleaguered boyfriend, who, by all accounts, is a pretty good catch. He’s ambitious, devoted, and involves his girlfriend (Tika Sumpter) in his video game marathons. He probably lets her choose the next movie in his Netflix queue too, which is more than can be said of her brother, who thinks that she’s incapable of making her own life decisions.
Since the couple are so adorably compatible, it’s too bad that Ben has to gain James’s respect and take the audience on a pedestrian 100 minute ride along in order to get it. Even with Hart’s frenetic energy, the film is average at best. It throws a lot of soft punches with easy jokes about shady arms traffickers, misuse of guns, and Ben’s manhood. The plot doesn’t help either, eschewing the thrill of an original story for neatly traced lines over every other undercover police buddy odd-couple film you’ve ever seen. We already know that James is determined to make Ben’s life hell, so it’s not too hard to figure out what tricks he’ll pull (e.g. one with a grizzled biker gang, one with the help of a poker buddy) or that some of his pranks will turn out to be the real deal.
Hart and Cube are both dynamic actors and have a natural chemistry, but that doesn’t help much here. The latter tends to recycle his characters, but that of course gets old, even if people get some thrill out of seeing Ice Cube’s permanent scowl. He used the angry black man persona to better, and literal, effect in 21 Jump Street, but this was thanks to sharper writing and direction that turned each line and look into a powerful full stop. There’s an attempt to correct for this by throwing James some existential angst as he comes to terms with letting go of his sister, but it’s a short-lived emotional ploy. I suppose if you’re a fan of either actor – or Laurence Fishburne, who sweeps in for a cameo and looks like a boss, watch Ride Along to tick off a box, and then move on to something better.
Prod: Ice Cube, Matt Alvarez, Will Packer, Larry Brezner
Dir: Tim Story
Writer: Greg Coolidge, Jason Mantzoukas, Phil Hay, Matt Manfredi
Cast: Ice Cube, Kevin Hart, John Leguizamo, Bruce McGill, Bryan Callen, Tika Sumpter, Laurence Fishburne, Jay Pharoah
Time: 100 min
Country: United States