A contrived 'action-comedy' that's as generic as corn flakes
If you look up 'generic' in the dictionary, next to the definition you’ll find the movie poster for Ride Along.Even if you know nothing about the film and haven’t seen the trailer you can guess the entire plot based upon the simple premise. Kevin Hart plays Ben, a fast-talking security guard who wants to join the police and marry his girlfriend Angela (Tika Sumpter). Unfortunately, before he can do either he needs to get the approval of Angela’s brother James (Ice Cube) a hard-nose and decidedly gruff detective with the Atlanta Police Department.
In order to prove himself worthy of both marrying Angela and joining the force, James takes Ben on a 'ride along'. Cue a comedic version of Training Day, where the mismatched duo start off hating each other and end up liking and respecting one another. Throw in the big hearted police captain who shouts a lot, a shadowy criminal mastermind, a few jokes, some action and a couple of corrupt cops and Robert’s your mother’s brother.
Ride Along somehow needed the services of four writers, that’s presumably a joke from each of them, and it still manages to be less funny than a similarly themed episode of Friends from fifteen years ago. Quite how this film has managed to be such a big hit is a mystery but it’s taken over $120 million at the US box office. Let’s hope it isn’t off the back of Kevin Hart’s rising star because if being annoying ever becomes an Olympic sport, he’ll do his country proud. We recently saw him in Grudge Match where he played a fast-talking boxing promoter and the diminutive actor already has six more films in production.
Ice Cube is hardly stretching himself in this film, either, and is basically playing the same mean and grumpy character that he portrays in every film he’s in. Still you can at least understand his annoyance and the constant frown, since he’s saddled with Hart for 99 minutes. It’s a wonder he doesn’t just shoot him or plan something more sinister than the series of pranks that he does play on Ben. Needless to say, as the day progresses, Ben accidentally helps James with a case he has been working on for three years, largely thanks to Ben's prowess at video games.
If being annoying ever becomes an Olympic sport, Kevin Hart will do his country proud.
The cast includes plenty of perfectly good actors, who frankly should know better or, at the very least, get a new agent. This particularly applies to Laurence Fishburne who plays the criminal mastermind ‘Omar’. This isn’t a spoiler because Fishburne’s name appears in the opening credits and despite everyone saying that they don’t know what Omar looks like, they have a picture of him as a kid. Since Fishburne is fairly distinctive and he appeared in Apocalypse Now at the age of 14, it’s pretty obvious who's playing Omar. The real question is why is he playing Omar? Did Fishburne need the money that badly because he looks like he would rather be anywhere else? He doesn’t so much phone his performance in, as send it by carrier pigeon.
Joining Fishburne on the walk of shame is Bruce McGill who plays James's boss Lieutenant Brooks and he delivers one of the most cliched performances you will see in a long time. The overweight gruff boss who shouts a lot and complains about the lead's lack of procedure but ultimately respects and admires him is just beyond parody these days. The same goes for the James's two colleagues who are always wise-cracking and hanging around the police station; even their names - Santiago and Miggs - are cliched. It's as though the writers simply bought a new piece of scriptwriting software and just hit F4.
Santiago and Miggs are played by John Leguizamo and Bryan Callen, both of whom are perfectly good comedic actors in search of a decent joke. Finally, there is Tika Sumpter as Ben's fiancé and James's sister, although why an apparently attractive, intelligent and independent woman would suffer either of them is a mystery. It's a thankless role, largely reduced to putting up with Hart's histrionics and being in peril. Not that you ever actually feel she's in any real danger, the generic plot and predictable twists rob the film of any real sense of surprise or tension.
The problem with Ride Along is the action isn't exciting and the jokes aren't funny.
Apparently the film was originally intended for Dwayne Johnson, playing James, and Ryan Reynolds, playing Ben, and frankly that sounds like a far more appealing combination. The lack of chemistry between the two leads is apparent, as is the lack of any decent jokes or originality, despite the efforts of four writers. The film was directed by Tim Story, who previously helmed the comedy Barbershop which also starred Ice Cube. Story has handled action as well, including the remake of the French movie Taxi and the two, very forgettable, Fantastic Four movies. He's a perfectly competent director but seems unable to inject the film with any real excitement, the action is very pedestrian, or genuine humour, it all feels very forced.
Sadly, despite Ride Along's general lack of either action or comedy, the film's box office performance has resulted in the studio already green lighting a sequel; so we can expect more screaming from Kevin Hart and frowning from Ice Cube in the near future. Although quite how they expect to squeeze another chapter out of a story that was already devoid of originality or humour remains a mystery.
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