No doubt the stand-up comic turned actor has his admirers. For me though, watching him in “Ride Along” was the equivalent of sitting next to an obnoxious 10-year-old child on a twelve-hour plane flight. Hart is one of those comedians who thinks he can annoy you into laughing.
His gags in this movie, those that don’t focus on his diminished height next to everyone else in the film, are built around a motor mouth, a gift for the inappropriate and an adolescent urge to punch any button without knowing what the button is for. As I said, a 10-year-old … with the mind of a five-year-old.
Why Ice Cube, who as a showman, actor and director has proven he does know how to be funny, wanted to play straight man to this guy is a mystery.
The movie’s premise is lame but then that’s true for all studio comedies released in January. Ben (Hart), a high-school security guard who spends all his spare time playing the Call of Duty video game, is convinced he has the makings of a cop. He has somehow even gotten himself engaged to the sister (Tika Sumpter) of an Atlanta cop.
Angela insists that Ben get the blessing of her brother James (Cube), a top APD detective. He refuses unless Ben accompanies on a ride along during his next shift, which James deliberately rigs to humiliate the young man at every stop.
At first you might wonder why James is so mean to his prospective brother-in-law. It takes only one stop — okay, maybe two — to realize James is absolutely right. Anything that would keep this guy out of your family would be fair game.
You know where this is all headed. Sure enough, Ben is made a fool of for well over half the movie — with his inadvertent cooperation every (mis)step of the way. Then crunch time arrives in the third act, when this cop-and-a-half face off against a real bad-ass (Laurence Fishburne), and Ben proves his mettle.
The only way to do this, of course, is for the script to transform Ben momentarily into someone else without any explanation of how a body can be inhabited by such radically extreme personalities.
The film, directed by Tim Story, is heavy on stunts and extremely light on laughs. Cube wears a single expression for virtually the entire movie — the slow-burn, sour frown of a man in agony. He has only himself to blame though — he co-produced this mess.
The screenplay is credited to no less than four writers yet feels like something spit out of a computer with buddy-cop screenwriting software.
Look at it this way: 2014 at the movies can only get better.
Opens: January 17, 2014 (Universal Pictures)
Production companies: Universal in association with Relativity Media presents a CubeVision/RainForest Films production
Cast: Ice Cube, Kevin Hart, John Leguizamo, Bruce McGill, Tika Sumpter, Bryan Callen, Laurence Fishburne
Director: Tim Story
Screenwriters: Greg Coolidge, Jason Mantzoukas, Phil Hay & Matt Manfredi
Story by: Greg Coolidge
Producers: Will Packer, Ice Cube, Matt Alvarez, Larry Brezner
Executive producers: Nicolas Stern, Ron Muhammad, Chris Bender, JC Spinks
Director of photography: Larry Blanford
Production designer: Chris Cornwell
Music: Christopher Lennertz
Costume designer: Sekinah Brown
Editor: Craig Alpert
PG-13 rating, 101 minutes