a critiQal film review Ride Along (2014)

Plot: For two years, security guard Ben (Hart) has tried to convince James (Cube), a veteran cop, that he is worthy of James' sister, Angela (Sumpter). When Ben is finally accepted into the police academy, James decides to test his mettle by inviting him along on a shift deliberately designed to scare the trainee. However, events take an unexpected turn when their wild night leads to Atlanta's most-notorious criminal and Ben's rapid-fire mouth proves as dangerous as the bullets whizzing by them.

630 words (Est. Reading Time 3m 9s)
  • ...there's something to be said about Kevin Hart trying to channel Chris Tucker, but sadly, this movie is just plain run-of-the-mill.

Looking for something to watch today, I came across Ride Along. I’d seen snippets of this buddy cop action comedy on premium channels, but had never gotten around to seeing the whole thing. Would this Ice Cube/Kevin Hart starrer be worth the time, or was this a Ride Along I never should have taken?

Ice Cube has gotten a lot more family-friendly over the years. After starting off in the rap biz with N.W.A. (and a successful solo career as well), he moved onto the big-screen with intense films like Boyz n the Hood (1991), before transitioning to weed movies (Friday), then action movies (xXx: State of the Union (2005)) and finally into comedies (21 Jump Street (2012)). He continues that tradition of becoming more family-friendly in Ride Along, and every time he’s seen on-screen these days, his gruff exterior is becoming more and more like a facade. The angst of his earlier years has faded, and he’s more playing a tough guy than actually being one. Guess he’s using his acting skills more than ever now – but in this case, that’s not really a good thing.

Kevin Hart, who disappeared after the incredibly bad Soul Plane (2004), is back on the radar in the past few years, thanks to better roles in films like Central Intelligence (2016) and Ride Along. Sure, it’s obvious here he’s trying to live up to Chris Tucker’s loudmouth from Rush Hour (1998), but he does a decent enough job anyway. His pairing with Cube isn’t as good as, say, the combo of Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker, but it does present enough of an odd couple to keep the movie from getting too stuck in the doldrums.

The rest of the cast is decent, if mostly uninspired. Bruce McGill plays the boss (as usual), John Leguizamo plays a second banana cop, blah blah blah. Tika Sumpter is pretty good as Hart’s girlfriend, although that odd couple is almost harder to fathom than Cube and Hart. But it’s Laurence Fishburne that seems to be a bit miscast. As a villain, he’s better at playing the guy who the audiences is unsure about. With his smoothly polished delivery, he’s better at being a suspect than just playing a crime boss. Unfortunately, in Ride Along, he’s just a typical – and rather uninspired – crime boss, and it really seems like a waste of his talents.

Buddy cop comedies have been all the rage for years. With Lethal Weapon (1987) getting them back in the spotlight in the 80’s, and Bad Boys (1995) and Rush Hour (1998) keeping things fresh in the 90’s, there’s been a rush to make the next big buddy cop hit. Unfortunately, the 2000’s started to see chinks in the nearly indestructible buddy cop formula with National Security (2003), and in the 2010s, those chinks have developed into major cracks (The Other Guys (2010)). And unfortunately, it just seems like things are going to get worse.

While Ride Along isn’t nearly as bad as The Other Guys (2010) or National Security (2003), it is just plain unoriginal. There’s nothing here that viewers haven’t seen a thousand times before, and it’s been done better before too. With Kevin Hart doing his best to bring the laughs (and Tika Sumpter surprisingly adding a few herself), it seems the writers getting laughs was the entire goal. And if the characters themselves are never much more than stereotypical cardboard cutouts, who cares, right? It’s all about the laughs.

With the same old buddy cop routine starting to show it’s age, Ride Along does nothing to breathe new life into the genre. Instead, it’s content to sit back and rehash the heyday of the genre, with it’s sole purpose to get the audience to laugh. Thankfully, it does achieve that at times. Overall, however, this Ride Along is too familiar to be anything but routine.

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