film reel image

film reel image

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Ride Along 2014 * 1/2 Stars

Ride Along

Director: Tim Story
Year: 2014
Rated PG-13
Rating: * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Kevin Hart, Ice Cube, Tika Sumpter

In 2012, Tim Story and Kevin Hart collaborated on the compulsively watchable, well casted Think Like A Man. Ride Along (the flick I'm reviewing) is their second stint so you'd think that said actor and director would successfully go two for two. Think again. This surprising, financially well off release, is an abomination of bad. You can tell just by the opening credits sequence, that "Ride" is an early front runner for worst film of 2014. Things open with a cheesy drug deal scene involving Ice Cube's character going undercover. Then what culminates is a shootout between the good guys and the bad guys coupled with slow motion shots/freeze frames to announce everyone who worked on the vehicle (a technique that paints the remaining running time as a joke right off the bat).

Filmed in a quick 35 day shoot, referencing the police drama Training Day (whatever), and containing very mediocre chemistry between the stars in a lame imitation from the buddy cop genre, Ride Along follows the challenged hyperbole Ben Barber (Kevin Hart). He wants to be a full fledged cop, wants to marry his girlfriend (Think Like a Man alum Tika Sumpter as Angela), and ultimately, yearns to be accepted into to the family by his girlfriend's brother (James Payton played defensively and arrogantly by tough guy Ice Cube). Cube's Payton, is a police detective and Barber's girlfriend's only other relative. In order for Barber to get Payton's blessing to marry his sister, Barber has to accompany Payton on you guessed it, a "rriiddee along." Without any character buildup and total disregard for the concept of logic (Cube's character lets Hart's character perform acts as though he were a real policeman when in fact he's not reached that pinnacle yet. His only job is to observe and in the law enforcement world, his participation should never happen), things are set in motion. Eventually, Barber gets in deep and helps Payton infiltrate a master criminal (the nameless yet faceless "Omar").

Ride Along, as putrid as it is, touts itself as an action comedy. Well the action scenes are so incoherent and messy, you can't tell who is shooting at who. Story, known for mostly directing the funny, is a novice here. He sets up car chases and gunfights that come off as vaguely pedestrian. Then there is the aspect of comedy and Ride Along provides almost no earned laughs (I might have chuckled once, that was it). This might sound redundant, but every amusing (or almost amusing) scene in this thing was included in the trailer. If you've seen said trailer but haven't set foot in the theater, don't worry, you aren't missing much.

Oh and I forgot about the actors and director for which I only fault because they agreed to sign up. Why would an upcoming hint of star talent (Hart) and a pretty respectable filmmaker (Story) be okay with the final cut of this ho hum garbage? Furthermore, why would Laurence Fishburne (who looks a little rough here) and John Leguizamo who are decent actors, decide to collect paychecks for something as mind numbingly stupid as this (they play thankless villains who spew inane dialogue and fade in and out of the proceedings)? Then there's Bruce McGill. He has always been an effective supporting player in a countless amount of flicks. Unfortunately, he really phones it in as the token angry/mad police chief. As for Ice Cube, it's just another umpteenth January release for him (that's never a good thing). You know things are bad when he decides to appear in anything that begins the new year (would you consider Are We There Yet and Torque to be classics? Me neither.).

But let's get back to star Kevin Hart. He was so reliably funny and off the wall in Think Like A Man, but has nothing of relevance to say in Ride Along. This script is cliched with clunky, flimsy dialogue that renders him unfunny for pretty much the whole thing. There is only one scene where he gives us a glimpse of why we love him so much as a comedic voice. He saves Ice Cube's character by posing as a drug lord in order to help him escape. Everything else he does seems to be a letdown. I don't think it's all his fault because I know what he's capable of. However, in this movie it's hard to believe that his Ben Barber is able to have a job as a security guard at a high school, get into the police academy even though he can't even fire a gun properly, and actually date a sophisticated woman considering that his character comes off as such a goofball nincompoop. Sadly, Hart's misinterpreted persona and improvisational technique are painful to witness. He gets nothing juicy to bounce off of. He talks fast just like in any other movie. But here he just talks to be heard and you almost feel sorry for him (I put the blame on a combination of four screenwriters for this catastrophe).

Now I never give a movie zero stars because I've heard how hard it is to make one. So I'll give this thing a star and add a half star for effectively using the city of Atlanta as its go-to locale. I've lived in Atlanta and the urban landscape is pretty darn believable here. It doesn't look like anything was filmed in a Hollywood studio (posing as the ATL) or Canada (where production costs are extremely low). But back to my angered, languished criticism. With grating, inept dialogue, characters and situations that aren't believable or plausible, and good actors who play those characters and dent their reputations in the process, Ride Along is cinematic proof that Thanksgiving comes early in 2014. Translation: this movie is one big, giant turkey. It's a "ride" you would never want to get on.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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