Ride Along Movie

From its first opening minutes, Ride Along descends into a fiery car chase complete with sports cars, monstrous behemoths of trucks and explosions only saved for the likes of Grand Theft Auto, while Ice Cube attempts to apprehend a nameless Serbian bad guy. It’s fitting, as the rest of Tim Story’s film focuses on fitting the world of video games into a much harsher reality. It’s kill or be killed out there, but Ice Cube might off himself after being saddled with his future brother-in-law first.

Our “heroes” are James Payton (Ice Cube) and Ben Barber (Kevin Hart), two men on different levels of the law with nothing in common except one big thing: they both love James’ sister Angela (Tika Sumpter). Ben wants to be worthy of Angela, and gain the approval of her intimidating big brother so much, that he joins the police academy to prove that he’s bigger than his low-budget rent-a-cop career makes him seem. And his height, don’t forget his height. Because the film certainly won’t let you.

Nobody is good enough for James’ baby sister, but especially not this tiny twerp, whom James has deemed “a chromosome away from being a midget.” He’s easily startled, hasn’t had a hard day in his life and is under the impression that hours upon hours of Call of Duty has him ready for real action on the streets. In order to finally get his blessing to marry Angela, Ben is taking a ride along with James – an all day test of his skills as a potential officer.

What ensues is a Training Day-esque barrage of torment as James gets his police work done while subjecting Ben to some rookie hazing. He’s hounded by a gang of bikers, berated by children and assaulted by a naked man in a supermarket, all in the name of making Ben look too weak to make it through the day. While garnering a few well-deserved laughs, much of the action starts to become repetitive, as does the second plot with James’ police duties. A hotheaded, decorated cop on the verge of cracking a big case who just can’t get the support of his superiors? Gee, we’ve never heard that one before.

Hart launches himself into his role full-force, but it’s the same shtick we’ve come to recognize from the comedian. He’s short, he’s loud and he’s aggressive, and that’s about all he has the chance to show. He all but prances in circles around an increasingly annoyed Ice Cube as he attempts to outdo his antics from the last scene. Hart knows his audience well and tries to keep their attention, but when you’ve seen him puff out his chest and exclaim that he’s a MAN for the umpteenth time, it’s time for a new routine.

Ice Cube, on the other hand, may as well have not been present for most of the film. Cube’s been in the film game long enough to be a seasoned performer at this point, but even he can’t find any joy or life in a tired trope of a curmudgeonly cop trying to do right by the force on his own terms. He’s got the perma-scowl down perfectly, no doubt, but he lumbers through his lines and through his fights; next to Hart’s manic energy, it’s almost lethargic.

But sometimes, that contrast of slow and hard-faced veteran and completely unhinged manchild complement each other in a way that makes far much more sense than it should. At its core, Ride Along is a buddy cop movie, and the chemistry between Hart and Ice Cube is palpable; hell, it’s better than the chemistry between Hart and his fiancée.

Where the duo is able to shine is toward the end of the film, when Hart’s character has his chance to prove that he can finally cut it as an officer, and Ice Cube is finally given more to do than just sit and frown. It appears to be a largely improvised scene comedy-wise and it’s one of the more riveting sequences of the entire film. It’s also when Laurence Fishburne shows up in a key role. Coincidence?

Ride Along is in theaters everywhere January 15th.