If you like Kevin Hart, you’ll enjoy Ride Along, the buddy-cop movie that pairs the motor-mouthed stand-up with straight-man Ice Cube. The action serves as a framework to Hart’s shtick, the mannequin on which his routine hangs. It’s a solid, if familiar, structure in the vein of 48 Hrs., the early-’80s Nick Nolte-Eddie Murphy comedy acknowledged as a touchstone by the filmmakers—gussied up, as the earlier film was, by its second lead’s outsized personality.
Hart plays Ben, a high-school security guard who dreams of joining the police force and marrying his girlfriend, Angela (Tika Sumpter). When he’s accepted into the academy, he decides it’s time to tie the knot, too, but not without the blessing of Angela’s brother, James (Cube). Trouble is, James, an Atlanta P.D. detective, isn’t too fond of Ben, but he agrees to give Ben a chance if he can make it through a day in the passenger seat of his Dodge Charger.
The product placement by the automaker is about as obvious as it gets, from the flashy, flaming Ram truck James commandeers in the movie’s opening-credits action sequence to Ben’s effusive excitement over the features on his partner-for-the-day’s black matte-finish Charger R/T. Fortunately, such marketing, while noticeable, still feels appropriate for the plot and characters—the ideal scenario for a sponsor.
Anyway, James is on the cusp of the biggest bust of his career, a mysterious arms dealer named Omar, while taking Ben on a series of 126es—annoying calls training officers use to haze rookies. But Ben’s gift for gab and penchant for third-person shooters prove valuable in the field—and give Hart an opportunity to showboat on the big screen. (That Ben accuses James of being a “newbie” in his fantasy world, as opposed to the gamer-approved term “n00b,” however, calls into question his own online cred.)
Directed by Think Like a Man’s Tim Story, Ride Along does risk feeling episodic, with James inserting Ben into one outrageous situation after another: Confronting a gang of scary bikers parked in a handicapped zone! Subduing a great big white guy losing it at a public market! Questioning a kid who points out he’s short (not the first time, or the last, that Hart will take pot shots about his height)!
But it’s entertaining enough within the genre’s formula to invite a sequel—which is apparently already in the works.
Director: Tim Story
Writers: Greg Coolidge, Jason Mantzoukas
Starring: Ice Cube, Kevin Hart, John Leguizamo, Bruce McGill, Tika Sumpter, Bryan Callen, Laurence Fishburne
Release date: Jan. 17, 2014