Ride Along may have taken in $40 million last weekend, but that number is no testament to quality. Instead, think of it as the christening of Kevin Hart’s popularity and his possible arrival as a movie star. At least, that’s the most likely explanation for its success, since Ride Along is a generally unfunny, clichéd buddy cop film — exactly the kind of thing Edgar Wright’s Hot Fuzz (2007), Phil Lord and Christopher Miller’s 21 Jump Street (2012) and a handful of other movies parodied years ago. On top of the already tired premise, we get lousy construction from a pretty lousy director in Tim Story — a man who hasn’t made anything worth watching since 2002’s Barbershop. The direction is listless, the script is all exposition (there are at least two instances of characters recounting scenes that just happened) and the jokes are never funny. Most attempts at humor rely on Hart’s noisy, fast-talking brand of comedy and a certain nostalgia pointed towards Ice Cube’s less cuddly, pre-Are We There Yet? days.
Hart plays Ben, a high school security guard who’s also an avid gamer — a character trait the film’s boneheaded script makes sure to point out at every opportunity. He’s also dating Angela (Tika Sumpter, Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas), who he wants to marry. Before the two can tie the knot, Ben has to win over her stern brother James (Cube). To afford him this chance, James — who is a real cop — invites Ben to join him on the job. It’s not long before the odd couple attempts to bring down a mysterious ganglord (Laurence Fishburne). The clichés start from the film’s opening action sequence, which illustrates James’ refusal to play by the rules, and introduces us to his frustrated, by-the-book chief (Bruce McGill) who yells a lot.
While Ice Cube actually gets higher billing, the real draw here is Hart, who is supposed to do the bulk of the comedic lifting. This doesn’t go too well. I’ll admit he has some charisma onscreen, but he lets loose a little too much, making for a manic comedic style that’s based more on bombast and slapstick than actual jokes. It’s an approach that ultimately fails in a movie that’s a good fifteen minutes longer than it should be. Hart gets a few good scenes here and there, but those — especially in light of the film’s numerous other flaws — are hardly reason enough to recommend it. Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence, sexual content and brief strong language.
Playing at Carmike 10, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande.