By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Should you go along with Ride Along?
If you’re a big Kevin Hart fan, then this vehicle designed to capitalize on the diminutive comic actor’s popularity and skill set may do the trick.
If, on the other hand, you want more than a generic action comedy that serves as a showcase for its main attraction, you might want to turn down this ride.
An action comedy that treats playing with guns as innocent fun and gunshot wounds like hangnails, Ride Along offers Ice Cube as straight man to the comic stylings of a unique funnyman.
The very busy Kevin Hart stars as Ben Barber, a fast-talking high school security guard who’s interested in marrying Angela Payton (Tika Sumter). She’s the little sister of James, the blustery Atlanta undercover police detective played by Ice Cube, who raised her and doesn’t think she should be committing to this no-account Barber guy.
Which is why Ben wants to show James that he’s not just a hardcore videogamer (although he certainly is that).
Then Ben gets into the police academy: surely now James will see him as worthy.
But not so fast. Before Ben actually proposes, James proposes that Ben accompany him on a 24-hour police ride-along to see what his potential brother-in-law is made of, how he deals with danger, and whether or not he’s actually worthy of Angela’s affection.
James assumes that the experience will scare the jelly out of smart-aleck Ben’s doughnut and maybe scare him right out of the siblings’ lives.
This being an action-comedy, this will not turn out to be a quiet, ordinary, uneventful ride-along and, wouldn’t you know it, the city’s most notorious criminal, played by Laurence Fishburne, will turn up.
Director Tim Story (Think Like a Man, Fantastic Four, Taxi, Barbershop), working from a committee-concocted screenplay by Greg Coolidge, Jason Mantzoukas, Phil Hay, and Matt Manfredi, fits his movie so closely around Hart’s motormouth comic persona that there’s no room for it to breathe. The movie just takes too long and works too hard for its slapstick laughs.
And although Hart gets a few big yuks, there are lengthy dead spots where the narrative just spins its wheels.
As for Cube, who is also one of the film’s three producers, he’s got two on-screen responsibilities: to keep a straight face during standup comic Hart’s long-winded comedic riffs, and to keep that trademark glare front and center.
If this were a more confident comedy, it wouldn’t need so many drawn guns and so much over-the-top cartoon violence, which it traffics in to a ridiculous and dispiriting degree, starting with the off-putting opening sequence.
So we’ll team up with 2 stars out of 4 for Ride Along, an unambitious, paint-by-numbers, buddy-cop flick that pulls up short even though it’s got its Hart in the right place.