Remember that episode of Friends where Ross, Joey and Chandler went for a Ride Along with Phoebe’s boyfriend Mike? You know the one; there was a stakeout, a meatball sub and a car backfiring, it was funny. Well Ride Along takes that concept and tries to run with it for a full movie.
Ben Barber (Kevin Hart) is a security guard just accepted in to police academy (no, not that one). To celebrate he decides he’s going to propose to girlfriend Angela (Tika Sumpter). But first he wants the blessing of her hardnosed cop brother James (Ice Cube) who doesn’t hold Ben in the highest regard. In order to impress James, Ben agrees to go on a ride along while James happens to be on the biggest bust of his career, tracking down the mysterious and elusive Omar.
Aiming to be a Training Day smashed together with Meet The Parents, with Ice Cube presumably feeling he’s too young to be playing De Niro’s dad role, Ride Along is full of energy but never quite hits laugh-out-loud funny. Great buddy comedies; Lethal Weapon, Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid, even Bad Boys tell a story while allowing their mismatched partners to bond and bicker to at least smile inducing levels of entertainment. Ride Along’s issue is only one side of the comedy duo has any kind of comedy timing. It’s certainly by no means a Kevin Smith’s Cop Out but neither is it Midnight Run.
Part of the issue is director Tim Story, of Fantastic Four fame, handles the action with kinetic energy but never really hangs around long enough to get to the juice of the matter; the bond, or lack there of, between Ben and James. For a film that boasts no less than four writers the best moments seem to come from Kevin Hart adlibbing.
In fact Hart is the one saving grace of Ride Along. His Duracell Bunny energy and high-pitched squealing are what keep you mildly interested while Ice Cube is doing little other than looking moody. Hart does the man-child thing to perfection and, given he’s also been in the lackluster Grudge Match this year, you wonder if his comedy talent will ever be given the right material to truly shine.
But, and this is crucial, while Ride Along may have failed to light critics fires it did pretty stunning business at the box office. Made for $25 million the film grossed an impressive $153 million in cinemas. The success has already led to a sequel being green lit and it’s hard not to suspect it might have legs given the obvious way a second Ride Along would unfold. Critics be damned, filmgoers know what they like and Ride Along, while certainly never high-brow entertainment, does have enough moments of fun to warrant a watch.
Like a London bus this Ride Along is often frustrating, has its stop-start moments and rarely races above a crawl but it does get to its destination in the end.