"Ride Along" Review: Craig's First Take

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To prove himself worthy of marrying Angela, fast-talking security guard Ben joins his cop brother-in-law James (Angela's brother) on a 24-hour patrol.

Kevin Hart is short. There’s no doubt about it. He’ll even tell you so, numerous times, in his stand-up shows and films. He’s also a very funny guy but “Ride Along” makes you wonder- is trying to become the Skee-Lo of movie comedy really the best career move? No offense to Skee-Lo, it was a fun 15 minutes, but I kinda want more for Hart.

Here he’s saddled with a one-joke premise that consistently pokes fun at his “weenie” status and a co-star in Ice Cube whose comedic skills usually pale in comparison to actual blocks of ice. And yet the Red Bull is strong in this one, Hart’s manic energy and likability factor is an undeniable draw on par with Chris Tucker, although you hope Hart is thinking of expanding his career past only continuing to work on one franchise.

He plays Ben, a security guard/gamer with a beautiful girlfriend (Tika Sumpter) and an acceptance letter into the police academy. All he needs now is to convince her rough-around-the-edges, loner brother James (Cube) that he’s right for his sister. James, a detective on the trail of a local gunrunner who wants to take over Atlanta (I kid you not!), detests him ever since a fire incident with a barbecue years ago but he agrees on one condition- Ben must first prove himself as a man and an officer by showing his true stripes on a ride along.

Boasting four writers, “Ride Along” takes the far-too-sensitive for the job Ben and puts him in the middle of situations featuring bikers, children, and a naked, honey covered man (don’t ask). Most people look bad-ass holding a Smith and Wesson, if only Ben were able to hold it with his small hands. And what to make of a man whose only claim to toughness is getting up to the premium level in his war video game? James, along with every one else in this movie, put Ben’s authority somewhere between a bunny and a ten-year old holding a plastic gun.

That’s the joke here-some of it works, most of it is just kinda disposable. Director Tim Story, who worked with Hart on “Think Like a Man” and also made those “Fantastic Four” movies into the “Mediocre Two”, stages a nice car chase in the beginning (could have done without the freeze frames though) and keep things moving at a relatively fast clip. The writers Greg Coolidge (“Employee of the Month”, “Sorority Boys), Jason Mantzoukas (an actor on FX’s “The League”), Phil Hay, and Matt Manfredi (both did “Aeon Flux”, Jackie Chan’s “The Tuxedo”, and last year’s “R.I.P.D”) are thinking “turn Training Day into a comedy” here and it proceeds in generic fashion, although slightly less tediously than everything else they’ve written.

Much of that is due to Hart, who even with the one-joke, predictable premise still makes you think you’re enjoying this thing even when what’s written on the page is pretty much mediocre. He has a really funny bit early on where he convinces a kid to stay in school and another later where he pretends to be a gun trafficker. Plus his energy and likability becomes infectious, like I said. Since this thing was built solely as a showcase for his talents, I would say he’s passed test 1.