With Ice Cube, Kevin Hart, Tika Sumpter, John Leguizamo, Laurence Fishburne. Written by Greg Coolidge and Jason Mantzoukas and Phil Hay & Matt Manfredi. Directed by Tim Story. Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence, sexual content and brief strong language.100 minutes.
RIDE ALONG is an utterly disposable comedy starring Ice Cube and Kevin Hart. It has no pretensions to anything beyond that unlike, say, Adam Sandler’s last outing, “Grown Ups 2.” Despite the involvement of four writers, it isn’t very clever, but if Ice Cube and Kevin Hart strike you as a funny combination, you may find it amusing.
The premise is that Detective James Payton (Ice Cube) is a lone wolf in the Atlanta Police Department, who tells his sidekicks (John Leguizamo, Bryan Callen) that he is the brains and they are the “brawns.” Yes, he uses it as a plural (and yes, that’s supposed to be funny). They are on the trail of a mysterious gangster named Omar who is involved in a big gun smuggling operation. This storyline runs through the whole film and, other than a few explosions and shootouts, never amounts to much, even when Laurence Fishburne lumbers through it.
Meanwhile, Ben Barber (Kevin Hart) works as a security guard at a high school and likes to play war-related video games. He’s also in love with Angela (Tika Sumpter), who happens to be James’s sister. James thinks Ben is a loser. Ben wants to earn James’s respect, and has even been accepted into the police academy.
This leads to the main story: James invites Ben to ride along with him for a day on the job. What follows is a series of humiliations confirming that Ben is a loser before the two plotlines merge in the third act. It took four writers to figure out what happened next. Chances are you can already guess. Even the “surprise” twists in the plot don’t amount to much because we have so little invested in the story.
Essentially this is a formula comedy pairing the gruff cop with the comic foil. Think of Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy in “48 Hrs.” with Ice Cube in the Nolte role and you’ve got an idea what to expect. The problem is that the script is nowhere near as good, and while Ice Cube has shown himself a capable actor, Kevin Hart is no Eddie Murphy. Indeed, Hart is moving dangerously close to Rob Schneider territory where his very presence in a film is a strike against it.
As for the rest of the cast, they’re simply–wait for it!– along for the ride. Tika Sumpter is lovely but doesn’t get much to do. Bruce McGill earned his paycheck playing the gruff police captain. Leguizamo and Callen seem to be phoning in from another movie. As for Laurence Fishburne, let’s hope his appearance here was as a favor to someone and not because this is the best work he can get.
“Ride Along” is the sort of movie that you’re likely to forget soon after seeing it. It’s not worth getting angry over; sadly, it’s not worth much at all.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His first novel, Shh! It’s A Secret: A Novel About Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s Guide has just been released. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.