Judge Patrick Naugle is a one-man buddy comedy.
"Man, you're not a cop!"
Ben Barber (Kevin Hart, Death at a Funeral) is a fast talking high school security guard with an addiction to video games, a quick fuse, a patient girlfriend named Angela (Tika Sumpter, Sparkle). Ben has decided that Angela is 'the one' and plans on asking her to marry him. The only obstacle standing in Ben's way is Angela's hardened brother, James Payton (Ice Cube, Next Friday), who also happens to be a police detective. James doesn't like Ben, but decides to give him one last chance by taking him on a 'ride along' to prove his worth for his sister. At the same time James has been working with his two partners, Santiago (John Leguizamo, Land of the Dead) and Miggs (Bryan Callen, Old School), in an attempt to apprehend a master criminal no one has ever seen and who goes by the name "Omar". With Ben beside him and the mysterious "Omar" almost in his grasp, James will have to dig deep and use both his police training AND his patience to get through this Ride Along.
Ice Cube started his career as a street tough rapper, making records (both with the group NWA and as a solo artist) and singing about, well…whatever things hardened rappers from the 1980s and 90s used to sing about. Cube started his acting career in John Singleton's acclaimed Boyz N the Hood, then followed it up with starring roles in Anaconda and Friday (as well as its many sequels), eventually become a leading acting in action films like XXX: State of the Union. At some point Ice Cube's career went from street tough to family man with films like Are We There Yet? and Are We Done Yet? These days Ice Cube is known as much for his airy comedies and family fare as he is for his angry alter ego. Diminutive Kevin Hart quickly made his way up the ranks of Hollywood as a stand-up comedian, then moved into supporting roles in films like Scary Movie 3 and Little Fockers, finally getting his big break in his own theatrical stand-up comedy specials, Laugh at my Pain and Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain. Since then Hart has become an in-demand actor in such films as About Last Night and Grudge Match. In 2014, Ice Cube and Kevin Hart teamed up and found collaborative success with action comedy Ride Along. The film was a box office hit for everyone involved…except discerning moviegoers.
Tim Story's Ride Along is like a cheap homage to every cliché in the buddy cop handbook. Seriously, there wasn't a single beat, character, plot thread, story arc, or piece of dialogue that hasn't been included in about a thousand other movies of this ilk. As Ride Along lumbered forward I sank back in my seat with the mounting realization that I wasn't going to see anything unique or challenging. I was about to watch a by-the-numbers buddy cop comedy that had no interest in doing anything to separate itself from the pack. There are few moments that are sadder in the life of a movie reviewer. I know what some of you are thinking: "C'mon, Ride Along can't be that bad!" You're right—Ride Along isn't that bad, and that's the film's major problem. It just exists. It's like eating a McDonald's cheeseburger; it's not terrible, but it's also not very substantial or enjoyable. Did I laugh during Ride Along? Yes, twice. The first time was during the film's centerpiece (since it was used in all the promotional materials) when Hart shoots a shotgun and is blown back into the wall. The second time was the end credits started to roll because, hallelujah, I didn't have to sit through anymore of Ride Along.
Kevin Hart is an enigmatic personality. I've seen him in a few movies and found Hart to be full of potential, but without a good script the comedian seems to flounder. Hart's stand-up comedy specials have failed to impress me, yet I still think that with the right material he could be funny. Ride Along is not that right material. Director Tim Story (who also helmed the two disastrous Fantastic Four movies) seems to have allowed Hart to run wild through the film with his ego unchecked; he's like a smaller version of Eddie Murphy, endlessly throwing quips and asides in hope that something will stick. A few of them do, but hardly enough to make up for how many don't. Ice Cube as an actor has always been an oddity since he has only two facial expressions: annoyance and anger. Ice Cube snarls and growls his way through Ride Along, mostly playing the straight banana to Kevin Hart's explosive persona. The supporting cast is shockingly underused, including a tired looking John Leguizamo as one of James's partners and Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix) in a role that seems to have been tailor-made for the actor, and by "tailor-made" I mean "created solely for the purpose of a large paycheck".
Fans of this kind of film won't be disappointed as it has all the pieces and trappings of the genre: crooked cops, ridiculous situations, large explosions, extreme gunfire, a romantic subplot (that's not too heavy on the romance), attempted witty banter, and even a car chase through a busy street that—surprise!—seems to have been cleared just so some cops and robbers can partake in a car chase. Ride Along features all of these things and more, except it does nothing with the sum of its parts except churn them through the genre mill without any creative thought or ingenuity. I'm waiting for the day when a clever filmmaker is able to reinvent this timeworn genre, because the movies Hollywood still churns out are just copies of copies of copies of copies. And you know how bad a copy of a copy looks.
Universal's Ride Along (Blu-ray) is presented in 2.40:1/1080p HD widescreen. Befitting a recently made action comedy, the image quality is near reference quality; colors are bright and bold, and the black levels look excellent. The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track sounds great, utilizing the surrounds for loud explosions, speeding car chases, and thumping rap music. Also included are a DTS 5.1 Surround mix in Spanish, as well as Spanish, French, and English SDH subtitles.
Bonus features include a commentary from director Tim Story, an alternate ending, deleted scenes, a handful of featurettes ("It Was a Good Day: On the Set of Ride Along", "Atlanta: The Character", "Kev and Cube's Wild Ride", You Gonna Learn Today", "Anatomy of a Big Blast", "An Explosive Ride"), a gag reel, a standard def DVD copy, a digital copy, and an UltraViolet download.
Ride Along doesn't do anyone any favors by existing. The film is just taking up space, a time waster for everyone involved—especially the viewer. If you like Ice Cube or Kevin Hart, I guess it's worth a Friday rental, if nothing else is available. Otherwise, this is one ride worth skipping.
This one oughta be grounded.
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