Directed by: Tim Story
Premise: A police detective (Ice Cube) takes his ambitious but squirrely brother-in-law (Kevin Hart) on a day-long patrol of the city.
What Works: Ride Along is a buddy cop movie and the filmmakers clearly intend to imitate pictures like Lethal Weapon and Bad Boys. Although genre pictures are often criticized for sticking to formula, in this case the closer the filmmakers of Ride Along adhere to the buddy cop template, the better their movie. The madcap moments aren’t very strong but when the film is only lightly comedic with an emphasis on the action it generally works. The strengths of the buddy cop formula extend to the main casting. Ice Cube has proven himself to be a reliable actor in movies as varied as Higher Learning, Barbershop and Three Kings. More recently he’s had fun sending up what remains of his hardcore image in movies like 21 Jump Street and now Ride Along, in which he very nearly parodies the stereotype of a hardboiled cop. No one is going to mistake Ice Cube for a great actor, but like a lot of successful movie stars he is a solid performer.
What Doesn’t: Although Ride Along succeeds when it plays for action, the movie suffers from a script that pulls the film in too many different directions. The movie has a lot of subplots but none of them are done very well. The premise of Ride Along has Ice Cube as a seasoned police detective who cannot stand the man that his sister has settled down with. When the brother-in-law-to-be seeks a job with the police department, the detective takes him on the titular ride along, intending to humiliate his would-be in-law and put him off both the detective’s sister and a job with the department. As is predictable, the two get into a series of misadventures with the intention that they overcome their differences and achieve mutual respect. The trouble is that the filmmakers never come up with adventures in which these two characters credibly grow on each other. Amidst what is supposed to be male bonding, Ride Along also has a subplot of an arms deal that Ice Cube’s character is trying to foil. Not enough is done with this storyline and it makes giant leaps in plotting. The lack of emphasis on actual police work hurts the movie by distracting from the action. When the movie plays as an action film it generally works but the set pieces don’t come often enough. The picture goes long periods without a shootout or a chase and when they finally do occur the sequences are not sufficiently spectacular. The lack of action is further hurt by the miscalculated attempts at comedy. The filmmakers of Ride Along inject too much humor into this movie and it cheapens the action. This picture runs into the same problem faced by 2013’s The Heat, in that it has moments of harsh violence juxtaposed with comic relief but the tone of the humor is off. Humor is a frequent quality of action movies such as Bad Boys and Die Hard but the comedy is usually of a mordant flavor. The humor of Ride Along is loud and absurd and with Ice Cube and the rest of the cast playing it straight, the comic relief duties fall to Kevin Hart. Therein lies the problem. Hart’s humor is based on being insufferable, so much so that it’s no wonder that Ice Cube’s character can’t stand him. That ultimately sinks the movie because no viewer will want anyone to succeed. The detective’s manipulation of his brother-in-law is mean spirited but at the same time the trainee consistently demonstrates that he is the last person who should become a police officer. Because the characters are striving for goals that the audience can’t get behind, the movie is a nonstarter.
Bottom Line: Ride Along is intended as an action comedy but it does not have enough action nor is it very funny. The movie is not involving and it is frequently dull, with the tedium punctuated by moments of obnoxiousness.
Episode: #477 (February 9, 2014)