For those of you who fancy yourself as Kevin Hart fans, there's probably not a thing in the world that I could write that would convince you to not see Ride Along, a half-assed and lazy buddy cop flick co-starring Ice Cube in a role that practically mocks everything he used to rap about when he actually still made media that matters as a member of the iconic N.W.A.
Instead of fuckin' the police, this time around Ice Cube is the police and he's that same kind of authority pushin', ass kickin' cop that he used to rage about as an up-and-coming rapper straight outta Compton. While I'm certain he's doin' it all for laughs, and certainly laughing all the way to the bank, there's just something more than a little disheartening about watching one of the key social commentarians of the early rap days essentially do nothing but mock everything he said and did in those days.
For the record, he's not very convincing do it with what looks like a painted on sneer and a permanent grimace that is supposed to pass as some sort of morally conflicted self.
Kevin Hart on the other hand?
Well, he's Kevin Hart and he certainly amps up that Hart personality into overdrive as Ben, a not so glorified campus cop aiming for the Atlanta Police Academy as what appears to be a bit of "small man's syndrome" in an effort to impress his hottie girlfriend Angela (Tika Sumpter) and, more importantly, her incredibly protective brother, James (Ice Cube), a rebellious cop who doesn't let a silly thing like the rule book get in the way as he tries to take down a drug kingpin alongside his cop buddies, Santiago (John Leguizamo) and Miggs (Bryan Callen), much to the chagrine of his stereotypically by the book lieutenant (Bruce McGill).
Directed by Tim Story (Think Like a Man, Fantastic Four, Barbershop) in such a way that the cliche's actually start during the simply godawful opening credits, yes I'm actually bashing the opening credits, Ride Along pushes the boundaries of its PG-13 rating and is all the worse for it as it's pretty clear throughout the film that both Kevin Hart and Ice Cube are dying to cut loose and feel uncomfortably restrained to the point of cinematic constipation.
As you may very well guess, and if you haven't then the film may very well be targeted at you, Ride Along has everything in the world to do with James offering Ben the chance to prove himself as a potential cop by joining James for a day-long, ahem, Ride Along. It shouldn't surprise anyone that James will turn up the volume on the pre-arranged tests for James while James will, of course, start off as a whimpering wimp before eventually discovering the comical hero within in time for that aforementioned drug kingpin to come into the picture.
As was true with this week's animated feature, the mediocre The Nut Job, Ride Along suffers greatly from a noticeable lack of chemistry between Ice Cube, with his faux brooding and sarcastic sneering, and Kevin Hart, with his trademark likeable guy shenanigans and over-the-top silliness.
In case you're keeping score, Kevin Hart wins.
Tika Sumpter, other than being incredibly hot, is incredibly wasted here while John Leguizamo gets saddled with playing yet another Latino with a not so winning agenda. Heck, even Bruce McGill leaves you thinking to yourself "Haven't I seen him play a cop before? Like hundreds of times?"
Okay, I'm exaggerating. A bit.
I'm not exaggerating when I say that Ride Along, with Ride Along 2 already in the works, is a huge disappointment even when you consider that Universal has unceremoniously dumped the flick into the January dumping ground for mediocre movies. The film's only joy, unless you actually enjoy Hart's mania, is watching master thespian Laurence Fishburne attempt to go completely ghetto in such a way that leaves you wondering if he's truly that awful or if he may be the only one on the big screen who actually gets what the film is supposed to be.
On the other hand, maybe Ice Cube knew what he was doing all along. After all, by the end of the film I was thinking to myself "F*** tha Police."
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic