D: Tim Story / 99m
Cast: Ice Cube, Kevin Hart, John Leguizamo, Bruce McGill, Tika Sumpter, Bryan Callen, Laurence Fishburne
There’s a moment in Ride Along where the viewer – even if they’ve only ever seen one other mismatched buddy-cop movie – has to say to themselves, “Whoa, hang on!” The moment occurs when Ben (Hart) walks into a strip club convinced he’s dealing with a 126 (a nuisance call) and finds two guns pointed at him. He doesn’t realise he’s in trouble and berates the two gunmen and challenges them to shoot him (he even throws in some reverse-racist taunting as well). It’s the moment when the viewer has to throw his or her hands up in the air and say to themselves, “Okay, I know this isn’t the best mismatched buddy-cop movie in the world, but really, am I supposed to believe Ben is this dumb?” Sadly, the answer is yes.
Ride Along is yet another dispiriting movie where the premise of two mismatched people having to work together to solve a mystery or crime is trotted out with ever decreasing results. Ben is planning to marry Angela (Sumpter) but first has to get the approval of her brother, James (Cube). James is a cop and thinks Ben isn’t good enough for Angela; he’s also trying to track down and apprehend a mysterious criminal called Omar (Fishburne). Ben wants to impress James, and lets him know he’s been accepted to the police academy. In an effort to dissuade him, James invites Ben on a ride along, a day spent with James to see if Ben has what it takes to be a police officer.
There’s no prizes for guessing that while Ben makes mistake after mistake, he still manages to stumble onto clues that help James get closer to catching Omar. It’s a tried and tested (and trusted) formula, but here it’s so wrung out and poorly plotted that even the average viewer is going to shake their head in disappointment. It’s the same problem that most of these movies have to overcome: just how dumb or stupid does the main character have to be, and yet still be able to credibly help resolve whatever problem, crime or investigation is at the centre of the movie. Hart is a promising talent – he’s like a less high-pitched Chris Tucker – but as Ben he’s unable to show a through line to both parts of the character. He plays video games and it’s this that’s supposed to help him when he and James get into a firefight; but other than being able to recognise the sounds different guns make, it’s baffling how this could be of any real benefit, yet it’s treated like a major asset (and then only as briefly as it will take to read this). Hart also falls into the trap of thinking that if he shouts something loudly enough it will be funny (it’s not).
Cube clumps through the movie like it’s a contractual obligation, using his trademark scowl as if it’s the only piece of characterisation he needs. He has two expressions: mad and angry, and he uses them like weapons to batter the other characters. It’s like watching someone who’s been told he’s got a week to live and the only item on his bucket list is to be as miserable as the situation demands.
With scenes that either outstay their welcome after a couple of minutes, or fail to advance or add to the storyline, Ride Along stutters and stumbles its way from the lacklustre, poorly edited opening action sequence to the ridiculous denouement that inevitably involves Angela being put in danger by Omar. By that point, anyone who’s stayed the distance will be hoping Omar wins out and shoots both Ben and James so that we don’t have to endure the inevitable – and recently announced – sequel.
Further down the cast list we have John Leguizamo, an actor with such a varied range and filmography that he can be forgiven his involvement here, while Fishburne pops up to provide unconvincing menace as Omar. In the director’s chair, Tim Story brings a journeyman’s approach to the material, failing to add anything special to proceedings and shooting in a predictable, straightforward style. It all adds up to something that’s actually less than the sum of its parts.
Rating: 4/10 – a dire retread of an already overworked “comedy” formula, Ride Along is about as rewarding as a cold sore; derivative, embarrassing and just plain bad.