Ride Along (2014) Universal Pictures
1 hr. 40 mins.
Starring: Ice Cube, Kevin Hart, Tika Sumpter, Bruce McGill, Laurence Fishburne, John Leguizamo, Bryan Callen, Dragos Bucur, Gary Weeks
Directed by: Tim Story
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre: Action & Adventure/Comedy
Critic’s rating: ** stars (out of 4 stars)
Ride Along could certainly be dismissed as yet another generic and boisterous cop buddy actioner because it is just that…nothing more, nothing less. Sure, one can understand the need to showcase lead performers in rapper-turned-actor Ice Cube and comedian-actor Kevin Hart because both explosive personalities have huge and loyal followings. So why not partner this tandem together and hope to cater to the massive urban crowd and any other segment that enthusiastically embraces synthetic cop capers?
In the tradition of other chaotic cop dramadies such as 48 Hours, Bad Boys, Rush Hour, The Other Guys and the “classic” Lethal Weapon movie series, Ride Along continues to serve the demographics that feed on tired and clichéd action-oriented partnerships where a couple of unconventional cut-ups cause mayhem in the streets. Some fans may still get a kick out of Ice Cube’s trademark snarl and Kevin Hart’s motor-mouth routine that is the steady and reliable gimmick behind this renegade cop comedy. However, others may be taken for a ride as this law enforcing farce cheaply patrols in familiar, excruciating territory.
Strained and outlandishly forced, Ride Along director Tim Story (“Think Like a Man”, “Barbershop”) and his handful of screenwriters simply conjure up the same old reliable formula of frenetic foolishness to help add some aimless punchiness to the flimsy storyline. This is not to say that the chemistry between stars Ice Cube and Hart is a complete bust because on occasion their interaction can be quite riotous in selective doses. Ice’s Cube’s deadpan grimace and Hart’s penchant for channeling the loose-lipped Chris Tucker from his Rush Hour box office glory days works its stretched out magic before teetering on monotony.
What one will find in Ride Along merely echoes the off-kilter sentiments found in this overwrought genre including hell-raising mismatched cops, an acid-tongued police superior that the mismatched cops must answer to regarding their shenanigans and the elusive bad guy for whom our gun-toting cads are obsessed with capturing even if it means destroying people and property to get at him. Yawn.
Maverick and moody cop James Payton (Ice Cube) plays by his own rules on the streets of Atlanta. In particular, he yearns to go after drug kingpin Omar (Laurence Fishburne) but the crafty criminal is hard to track down. James is frustrated but even more perturbed is his boss (Bruce McGill) who is not too thrilled with the tough cop’s methods in wanting to corral the slimy and mysterious Omar. In short, James is just too reckless to handle.
In the meanwhile, James’s baby sister Angela (Tika Sumpter) happens to be dating a Napoleon-sized, video game-obsessed high school security guard named Ben Barber (Kevin Hart). Ben wants to become a legitimate cop and hopes to land a spot in the police academy. Ben wants to marry Angela but he realizes that the main obstacle that stands in his way is the gruff James whose respect he wants to earn so urgently.
So a “test” is put into effect if Ben insists on winning over James’s trust and approval so that he can proceed with his romantic relationship with Angela. Ben must ride along (hence the movie’s uninspired title) with James for one day so that he can see if he can withstand the danger of the unpredictable streets. Should Ben survive the “ride along” then he can feel comfortable in pursuing Angela’s hand in marriage not to mention gaining the grumpy James’s acceptance.
In sneaky fashion, James recruits his fellow officers Santiago (John Leguizamo) and Miggs (Bryan Callen) to stage a series of crime-related incidents to try and intimidate the diminutive Ben to ruffle his feathers as they continuously make a fool out of him. Ben is difficult to crack as his arrogance and garrulous demeanor somehow keeps this rogue as a resilient thorn in James’s side. Predictably, the tedious tandem’s bickering and berating takes its toll as they practically ruin the surroundings around them.
It takes some time for James and Ben to warm up to each other before the real action takes place. Mutually, the common goal is to hunt down the cunning and creepy Omar. The word is that Omar has some deadly ties to Serbian arms dealers. Can James redeem his street cred and look respectable in the eyes of his nagging police lieutenant should he finally get his hands on the unctuous Omar? Will Ben realize his dream of becoming a crusading cop while welcoming both Angela and James as his “new family”? When should we place bets as to guessing whether or not a Ride Along II will be hatched in the near future?
Pointless and desperate, Ride Along taps desperately into every known trick of manufactured hedonism from lazy sight gags (witnessing a high-powered hand gun blasting bitty-sized Ben into the wall during shooting practice), cutesy confrontations (a little kid chumping Ben during a verbal spat) and by-the-numbers animated destruction (empty shoot-outs, random explosions, colorful cussing, over-the-top pranks, etc.).
Maybe the true selling point behind Ride Along is Hart’s comedic manic mouth or Ice Cube’s signature streetwise hostility that fuels this hackneyed rollicking ruse? It is fine and dandy to appreciate their well-known shtick in other areas of entertainment but must it be at the expense of a throwaway and nonsensical odd-couple cop vehicle?