Mismatched buddy comedy is as generic as they come
Once upon a time, long before he was cold, Ice Cube was O’Shea Jackson. A popular hip hop artist in the late eighties and nineties, Jackson still makes music under his stage name but to many he’s more recognizable because of comedies like Friday and Barbershop.
His latest, Ride Along, is another comedy, only this time it is an action-based buddy flick. So it’s like the second cousin twice removed to that xXx sequel he did when Vin Diesel didn’t reprise his role as Xander Cage and Cube had to be partnered with some Scott guy from TV’s Felicity. Only this time his buddy-in-training is Kevin Hart.
Kevin Hart plays Kevin Hart as usual. This is to say that he plays himself. Ice Cube is also Ice Cube. There are no machinations of either doing anything that is outside of their normal routine. Cube is the straight man to Hart’s spastic high energy. If you’ve seen any of the advertisements – a 30-second TV commercial or full-length trailer – then you’ve pretty much seen the highlights of Tim Story’s latest effort.
Ride Along is bearable in a I’ll wait until it hits Redbox, or better yet premieres on TBS in between marathon airings of Tyler Perry’s latest sitcom, kind of way, but it’s an insulting comic vehicle to anyone familiar with the tropes of better buddy cop films.
There was a time where Ice Cube proudly declared “F— tha Police” when he was a member of N.W.A. I almost want to say the same thing only have it directed to this comedy. But I can’t; this isn’t painful viewing. It’s just uninteresting for most of its duration. Even now I’m struggling to remember character names (thanks IMDb!).
The gist goes something like this: Ice Cube is James Payton, a tough, insubordinate cop – guess he turned the other cheek from his N.W.A. days. Kevin Hart is Ben Barber, a school security guard with aspirations of being a cop. When Ben isn’t laying down some logic to kids who would rather ditch than go to class, he’s playing first-person shooters communicating with friends online with names like Ass-Face.
The central conflict involves Ben trying to prove that he’s man enough to marry James’ sister, Angela (Tika Sumpter). Cube gives Hart his Sheryl Crow moment (that he’s strong enough to be his sister’s man) by offering to take him on a ride along to show him what real cops do. Though, I’m skeptical about the “real” part since James works for the fictional Atlanta City Police Department. That’s right – Atlanta City, not Atlanta.
Everything else in the narrative is secondary to the pairing of Cube and Hart. The biggest subplot involves James’ continued three-year investigation of a mysterious crime kingpin named “Omar.” Those hoping for a big reveal just need to pay attention to the film’s opening credits. His name is in there.
It may come across that I’m dogging Ride Along at every angle, but that’s mostly on account that it is a poorly written comedy. A total of four writers tinkered with a script and that’s always suspicious. Almost as if it started in one direction before the plot was filled in as if completing Mad Libs. (Before Cube and Hart’s involvement the film was to have starred the likes of Dwayne Johnson and Ryan Reynolds.) At the very least, Ice Cube and Kevin Hart do have some nice chemistry and exchanges. However, Tim Story’s direction is toned down for PG-13 consumption, which basically neuters the action and restrains comedy that clearly wants to be more “adult” than what’s offered.
Ride Along is, sadly, aiming to be relaxation entertainment for the masses. The type of comedy that goes for easy laughs, where the audience doesn’t have to think too hard. The action is generic, the storyline is boring, and the comedy is uneven. It wants to be Bad Boys but such aspirations are a Cop Out.
Sorry, Cube. Today wasn’t a good day.
Director: Tim Story Writer(s): Greg Coolidge, Jason Mantzoukas, Phil Hay, Matt Manfredi Notable cast: Ice Cube, Kevin Hart, John Leguizamo, Tika Sumpter, Bryan Callen, Bruce McGill
Travis Leamons is one of the Inside Pulse Originals and currently holds the position of Managing Editor at Inside Pulse Movies. He's told that the position is his until he's dead or if "The Boss" can find somebody better. I expect the best and I give the best. Here's the beer. Here's the entertainment. Now have fun. That's an order!