In the next ten years there are going to be probably 15 different movies that are sort of like “Ride Along”- a comedy that serves as more or less a vehicle for the talents of comedian Kevin Hart. “Ride Along” probably won’t be remembered as one of the better of those movies, but it still has its moments, and does a decent job of showcasing Hart.
Hart, the actor/comedian who has broken through huge in both stand-up comedy and movies in the last couple of years, stars as Ben Barber, a video-game-obsessed layabout who, like Mark Wahlberg in “Ted” before him, is pretty chiseled and muscular for someone who supposedly spends most of his spare time gaming.
A high school security guard with aspirations of a police career, Ben is looking to prove his worthiness to his girlfriend (Tika Sumpter) as well as her brother (Ice Cube,) a seasoned and very hostile cop. So, accepted to the police academy, he goes on the ride along of the title with his prospective brother-in-law.
The plot is a bunch of nothingness, built mostly out of well-worn buddy cop comedy cliches. Something about an arms deal, corrupt cops and a mysterious criminal mastermind who, Keyser Soze-style, no one has ever actually seen (I won’t spoil who plays the boss, but it’s a Respected Veteran Actor who’s clearly having the time of his life.) The film also functions as something of a travelogue of Atlanta, where it was shot.
Hart is hilarious, and his chemistry with Cube is quite strong. It’s the essential Kevin Hart persona- put-upon and self-deprecating, and using his big mouth to get into- and out of- precarious situations- and it hasn’t gotten old yet and probably won’t anytime soon. I enjoyed Cube in this too; at one point I suppose it was pretty shocking for once vocally anti-police rappers like Ice Cube to play cops, although that was before Ice T was on SVU for ten years.
So what’s wrong with the film? The plot is weak, cliched and telegraphs everything- there’s never much doubt about where things are going. Also, the handful of action sequences are shot very poorly, with aggressive shakycam ruining just about everything.
The director is Tim Story- who had a huge hit in 2012 with “Think Like a Man,” which also starred Hart, although he also made the two “Fantastic Four” films and the unfortunate Jimmy Fallon/Queen Latifah action comedy “Taxi.”
We know at this point what a Kevin Hart Movie is; I just get the sense that the next couple of them after “Ride Along” will do it better.