Film review: Ride Along is heavy on plot and light on laughs

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Ride Along stars Kevin Hart and Ice Cube in a buddy cop movie that searches for a comedy angle. Ride Along stars Kevin Hart and Ice Cube in a buddy cop movie that searches for a comedy angle.

The buddy cop movie is a familiar trope with many variations. You could have a cop and a crook (48 Hrs.); two cops and a fish-out-of-water cop (Beverly Hills Cop); a straight-and-narrow cop and a by-the-book cop (Lethal Weapon); the villain-is-the-sidekick-in-spirit gag (Die Hard); and the send-up/homage flick (Hot Fuzz).

What do the first four movies in the above paragraph have in common? Answer: They were all made in the 1980s when the buddy cop picture was a new-ish (or at least appropriately remodeled) kind of blockbuster. These days, if you do the cop movie, it had better have some originality (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, which was original, fun, and no one saw it), or it had better star Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy (The Heat).

Whatever the approach, chances are better than average that the resulting cop movie will be worse than average. Enter Ride Along, a comedy that has, in 100 minutes, three solid laughs. That’s a woefully shitty batting average. How does a film starring Kevin Hart (arguably one of the best stand-up comedians working today) and Ice Cube (an actor who, for all his limitations, knows how to be funny) fall short at every turn? Weak script, leaden pacing, dull cinematography, cliché-filled story.

And just to round things out, how many times will I ask a question just so I may answer it? Three.

Story-wise, it’s a lame twist on a standard set-up. Cube (he has a character name, but it’s just Ice Cube doing his thing) is a renegade cop and Ben (Hart) is about to propose to Cube’s sister, Angela (Tika Sumpter). Ben was just accepted into the police academy but Cube hates him. See, apparently Ben set Cube on fire at a barbecue.

So in order to get Cube’s blessing for Ben’s upcoming proposal to Angela, Ben accompanies Cube on a ride-along to prove himself. Thankfully, the antiquated gesture proves to be just a gesture when Ben says he’s marrying Angela, blessing or not. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

There’s a surprisingly heavy amount of plot in Ride Along, and the movie makes the mistake of sticking to the story instead of letting two fun actors be fun. All the comedy—“comedy” used advisedly—involves Hart quickly spouting lots of dialogue that isn’t remotely comedic, but it happens so quickly it may trick you into believing it’s a larf-fest.

Then there’s Cube, who’s left to play the straight man. It’s something he does well (see: Friday), but when he’s working with the unintentional anti-humor of Ride Along’s script and miscalculated ad-libbing, he just looks pissed off, which is kind of his resting state anyway.

About those three laughs: One of them involves Hart’s height. If there’s one thing you can count on here, it’s lots of gags about Hart’s wee-ness. You know, because being short is funny or something.

But maybe if the audience treats Ride Along as a spot-the-creaky-story-points exercise and ignores its self-conscious references to Cube’s music, it could still be fun. Count all the clichés in the script, follow the story beats, and see if you can figure out what’s going on before the characters do. You’ll solve things before Cube and Ben, for sure.

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