Starring: Ice Cube, Kevin Hart, Tika Sumpter
Director: Tim Story
Screenplay: Greg Coolidge, Jason Mantzoukas
Action/Comedy, Rated: R
Running Time: 99 minutes
Release Date: January 17, 2014
Ben & James: Duo, P-PP Mental, Pro (Classic Buddy Cop Heroes)
Omar: Single, N-N Moral, Ant (Hidden Mastermind Villain)
Greg, it looks like Kevin Hart wants to go along for the ride. Shall we review?
I don’t have the heart to say no. Let’s recap.
We meet Ben Barber (Kevin Hart), who works as a security guard at a local school but aspires to become a member of the Atlanta Police Department. Ben is dating a woman named Angela (Tika Sumpter) who is the sister of a current APD officer named James (Ice Cube). No matter how hard he tries, Ben can’t seem to impress James, who doesn’t believe that Ben is worthy of dating his sister.
Through a series of awkward events, James challenges Ben to go on a ride along with him in his police car. James offers that if Ben can keep up with him for a full day then he can have his blessing for his sister’s hand in marriage. But James stacks the odds against Ben by taking on only the most annoying calls and Ben quickly becomes frustrated.
Greg, Ride Along is a sort-of buddy cop story involving a funny guy, Ben, and a straight man, James. One has to be a Kevin Hart fan to enjoy this movie, and while I don’t claim to be his biggest fan, I did appreciate his talent and some of his antics. Hart and Ice Cube are a modern-day Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin; there is nonstop zaniness from Hart followed by scowls of disapproval by James. Both characters are likeable and I found myself rooting for them to achieve detente.
As we’ve seen with other “buddy” films, the buddies usually start out as adversaries and gradually grow to find a center. This was true of last year’s The Heat with Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy. In Ride Along, we see scene after scene of straight man James introducing Ben to situations he is not able to handle. But, James has a knack for noticing small details that eventually become useful to him.
As the story progresses, we find that James is tracking bad guy “Omar” (Laurence Fishburne) whom no one has seen. This shadowy figure controls the local drug and gun black market. This becomes the main object of the pair’s attention.
Indeed. It’s a predictable plot and so the appeal of the movie centers on whether you enjoy Kevin Hart’s physical comedy and verbally explosive humor. I do give this movie credit for creating two heroes whose characters evolve nicely as a result of their experiences. Ben is given the opportunity to show a crafty courageousness that enables him to win the approval of James. And as for James, he realizes that he has to let his sister live her own life, and he must also swallow his pride by admitting that his negative assessment of Ben was wrong.
As you point out, Greg, this bonding of two cops who initially dislike each other is typical of many buddy cop movies. And so the key here is in the performances and in the execution of the various predictable plot elements. Ride Along does a decent job along these lines but it’s all pretty standard fare.
You’re not kidding when you say this was predictable, Scott. There is the classic ornery boss who wants James not to follow his instincts. There is the go-to snitch on the street. There’s the rotten cop on the take. All the elements of the classic buddy-cop movie are here.
The villain was a disappointment. Omar is never seen until the last few scenes of the movie. He is built up as a dastardly dude who controls others from afar. Inexplicably, he shows up at a gun deal and shows how awful he is by killing one of his henchmen, because, you know, he’s mean. There is no dimension to this character and zero backstory. He’s just a bad, bad, man. Not a very interesting villain.
You’re right, Greg. The villain in this story, Omar, is mostly a figurehead who is spoken of ominously throughout the movie. When he does make an appearance at the end, he proves himself to be capably evil but hardly memorable. I was thinking that the only way to salvage my interest in the villain would be to make Kevin Hart, who pretends to be Omar, to turn out to be the actual Omar. But that would have been problematic for other reasons, and so we’re largely left with a vacuous villain.
Ride Along is a plodding device for Kevin Hart’s humor, like him or not. It borrows from all the buddy-cop movies that came before it and offers nothing new. There was scarcely a joke or giggle for the first 30 minutes and that was a deadly silence to bear. I can only give Ride Along 2 Reels out of 5.
Our buddy-heroes were pretty dull – not funny and not interesting. They both did converge into a sense of mutual admiration if not acceptance. I give them 2 Heroes out of 5.
The villain was nearly non-existent and only served to pull a “Snidely Whiplash” and abduct the damsel in distress (James’s sister) at the very end of the film. For a lackluster and generically bland villain I give Omar just 1 Villain out of 5.
As you noted while we walked out of the theater, Greg, I did chuckle twice during this movie. I therefore give Ride Along one reel for each chuckle for a total of 2 Reels out of 5. This film avoids receiving the dreaded 1 Reel because Kevin Hart is a good talent, and because Ice Cube deserves credit for handling Hart’s goofiness with noble restraint.
Our two heroes do undergo a transformation during the course of events in this movie. The hero story is hardly inspiring but it does contain some rudimentary elements of the hero’s journey. For that reason, I’ll generously award our dynamic duo a total of 3 Heroes out of 5.
As you point out, the villain was as flimsy as a piece of cardboard. He exists in name only and virtually no effort was made to render him the least bit interesting. So like you, Greg, I can only hand out a measly 1 Villain out of 5.