‘Ride Along,’ A Bumpy Road
Starring Ice Cube and Kevin Hart
Directed by Tim Story
Ah, the buddy-cop action comedy--where would Hollywood be without it?
Well, we’d certainly be without this idiotic pair-up and its many better predecessors, from “Beverly Hills Cop” to “Men in Black.”
After all the “prestige” pictures, the heavy lifters, of any previous year are on their hopeful way to awards-ville, January is when Hollywood takes a load off and lets the dogs out, returning to a menu of table scraps and leftovers after the gut-busting big-screen excesses of the Thanksgiving-to-Christmas holiday season.
“Ride Along” stars rapper-turned-actor Ice Cube as a gruff, tough Atlanta cop trying to derail the engagement of his sister (Tika Sumpter) to a high school security guard (Kevin Hart) whose ambition is to become a real policeman.
So James (Cube) invites Ben (Hart) to “ride along” with him on a typical day to prove he’s got the chops to be a cop--and to become his brother in law. Wouldn’t you just know they encounter all sorts of hilarity...and manage to crack the case of an underworld criminal warlord that James has been pursuing for years?
If it sounds like you’ve seen it all before, you have. The script, a group collaboration that feels like a sampler platter of mismatched-partner ideas, checks off just about every cop-movie cliché in the book, walks into one predictable situation after another, and grabs for every low-hanging joke-fruit that comes within reach.
Everybody makes a crack about Ben’s diminutive size (“He’s about a chromosome away from being a midget,” grumbles James). There are “comedic interludes” outside a biker bar, inside a strip club and at a shooting range. The big, explosive showdown-shootout happens--where else?--in an abandoned warehouse.
Hart’s a funny guy, although I can certainly see how his high-pitched, screechy, hyperactive, slapstick-y, infantile shtick might not be some people’s cup of tea. He’s clearly the star of the show, although Ice Cube might get the bigger billing.
Director Tim Story, who directed two “Fantastic Four” movies plus the comedies “Barbershop” and “Think Like a Man,” fares much better here with the humor than the action, which is clumsy and clunky in contrast to the film’s easier, more natural riffs and rhythms when Cube and Hart are playing off each other.
None of the people who hooted and howled at the screening I attended appeared to be the least bit troubled that “Ride Along,” its high-spirited ha-ha’s punctuated with gunfire and bullets, was released as the nation was absorbing news of the latest school shootings, in Roswell, N.M., and Philadelphia, Pa., and just a couple of weeks after one movie patron pulled out a gun and killed another in Tampa, Fla.
Laughter, it’s been said, can be a healing force. There’s nothing as lofty, or as noble, as healing in “Ride Along”--just a quick roll in a barrel of cheap, hollow laughs down a familiar, forgettable road that we’ve traveled many times before.