Ah, the mismatched buddy cop movie. Films like 48 Hrs, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Rush Hour have established this particular type of action/comedy as a genre unto itself. Both halves aren’t always cops, but they’re most definitely an oil and water-type pairing kept alive through friction, wisecracks, and an escalating series of action-fueled escapades.
Of course not every outing can be a Lethal Weapon. Sometimes we get stuck with more of a Lethal Weapon 4. Sometimes we get Ride Along.
Ben (Kevin Hart) is a security guard dreaming of becoming a cop. The job change is due in part to his desire to make himself into a man worthy of his girlfriend Angela’s hand in marriage, but he also thinks being a cop would impress her brother, Detective James Payton (Ice Cube). Payton knows otherwise, so after Ben receives notice he’s been admitted into the police academy James takes him out for a celebratory ride along hoping to scare him straight into another profession and out of Angela’s bed.
“You thought I was crazy? Nah, I’m nuts.”
Ben garners little respect on the job, but in his off-time he rules the online world of First Person Shooter games as “The Black Hammer.” He knows his way around a pixelated battlefield, but his FPS bravado sends him unprepared into the real world of James’s beat. Granted, the detective has stacked the deck in a few ways to challenge and humiliate poor Ben.
But when Ben’s persistence and knowledge of in-game weaponry pays off on this side of the LCD screen the action becomes very real and very dangerous. A master criminal known only as Omar is in the process of arranging something very big, and this particular cop and a half may be all that stands between innocent civilians and Omar’s coming out party.
Events play out as anyone who’s seen this type of film would expect, but they do so with a lack of anything resembling ingenuity or excitement. There are short jokes, misunderstandings, and slapstick, but most of them fail to deliver more than chuckle. The action fares equally flat with sequences that aim for laughs instead of thrills.
Ice Cube has the role of straight-faced hard-ass down pretty good by now, but while he leaves most of the comedy to his partner he does earn the film’s biggest laugh late in the film. You’ll know it when you see it as it’s 100% based on his facial expression during a particularly chaotic gunfight. Hart meanwhile plays the entire thing for laughs (except for when he’s talking about weaponry), and his scattershot approach means at least as many misses as hits to the funny bone.
While some humor is derived from a barrage of Training Day references and fast-talking wit, far too many attempts are made via Hart’s screeching and slapping. It’s not only loud and obnoxious, but it’s also indicative of a character who honestly isn’t cut out to be a police officer. Not that a film like this is watched for authenticity, but the sum of Ben’s actions on this day is not exactly indicative of good cop material.
Ride Along is an action/comedy where neither half is all that interested in making much of an effort. The action is small-time, and the laughs are hit and miss depending on your particular barometer for yelling, clumsy gunplay, and generic scenarios. Basically if you really like the two leads you’ll probably have an okay time here, but if not you’re better off letting this ride pass you by.
The Upside: Some laughs from Kevin Hart and at least one from Ice Cube; the two share an easy chemistry; lighthearted
The Downside: Slap-happy and shrill; doesn’t try to do or be anything more than the bare minimum
On the Side: Per IMDB, there’s already a Ride Along 2 in development.