“Ride Along” is the first box office smash of 2014 thanks to the appeal of its two stars: rapper turned actor Ice Cube and comedian Kevin Hart. The two play-off each other nicely in this solid, but not hysterical buddy-cop action comedy.
The all-too-simple premise features Cube as veteran Atlanta PD detective James Payton. His sister Angela (Tika Sumpter) is eager to tie the knot with boyfriend Ben Barber (played by Hart). He’s a fast-talking high school security officer, and a top combat video game player, who has just been accepted into the Atlanta Police Academy. James isn’t fond of Ben and doesn’t think he’s worthy of his sister. But Ben wants James’ approval in marrying Angela and he desperately wants to become a police officer. So James decides to take Ben on a “ride along” for a day – showing him what it’s really like to be a cop, and to scare Ben into giving up his dream.
James thinks Ben will be in completely over his head, and he’s right. But then the two become part of an actual crime situation involving a major illegal weapons operation and the undersized Ben gets his chance to stand tall.
The screenplay for “Ride Along” was written by four guys (including two responsible for last year’s disastrous, “R.I.P.D.”) and it shows. There’s no suspense and few surprises. Thankfully, director Tim Story (“Think Like a Man”, “Fantastic Four”) allows his two leading men to rise above the script – Cube playing it fairly straight while Hart (who’s got several other comedies in the works) dominates the screen with his quick, often sarcastic one-liners. These two make a much more grounded and likeable pair than the mismatched Sandra Bullock and
Melissa McCarthy in “The Heat” and the too over-the-top Channing Tatum
and Jonah Hill in “21 Jump Street”.
The jokes are very inconsistent (I laughed at, maybe, one out of every 10-15 times attempts – they do come rapid fire), but there are just enough to keep your attention and stay reasonably entertained. The most impressive scenes are the better-than-average, and fairly violent, action sequences. John Leguizamo, Jay Pharaoh (“SNL”) and the always great Laurence Fishburne lead the supporting cast.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, “Ride Along” gets a C+. In less than two years, we’ll be seeing Cube and Hart “ride” again, hopefully with a much stronger story to work with.