Ride Along is looking to be the first 2014 release that mainstream audiences seem to be really looking forward to, and I can’t really blame them. Over the past couple of years, comedian Kevin Hart has developed a large and faithful fanbase, while Ice Cube showcased his comedic chops again recently in 2012’s 21 Jump Street. Pairing these two in a buddy cop comedy just seemed right, and although a movie like this doesn’t necessarily need to aim high, it could still be pretty entertaining. Though then again, we’re still in January, and if this movie truly had potential, it could have played well in the summer. So after seeing it, while Ride Along has the makings of a big hit, it never tries to fully utilize its potential. The movie expects the usual buddy-cop formula to work on its own, but it can’t hide the fact that the production value is too low for an action comedy and that both Kevin Hart and Ice Cube need way more to work with.
In the film, Hart plays Ben, a goofy high school security guard completely obsessed with gaming and eventually becoming a full-fledged cop. He’s also got a great girlfriend, played by Tika Sumpter, who he is fully focused on marrying. Though before he can, Ben must get a blessing from her hard-boiled cop brother, James (Cube). In order to really test Ben in proving that not only is he worthy of marring his sister but also eventually joining the force, James takes him on a day at work. At first, James only does this to scare Ben off from even considering becoming a cop. Though of course, the two end up running into some real trouble and – uh oh! – shenanigans occur.
Look, as I’ve said, Ride Along has the elements of a good movie, but it doesn’t ever seem like it wants to make use of that. In fact, I was kind of surprised that there were actual recurring themes of finding courage and confidence throughout and that Kevin Hart can be a leading man in a film…but the movie is still totally forgettable. Maybe it’s because it had a low budget and director Tim Story couldn’t take advantage of its action sequences, but hey, Pineapple Express only cost $25 million to produce and that totally worked. There’s also the pretty bland script, which apparently was rewritten multiple times in the past couple of years. Looking back at this film, you can see how all these revisions eventually turned out a flat screenplay that would have to depend on its actors to give it personality. While I do think Hart and Cube work well together, it’s not enough to cover up extremely predictable comedic set pieces.
Ride Along could have been something, but it unfortunately ended up being no more than an easy profit for the studio due to its star power and the lack of competition in theaters right now. Though honestly, if you’re really interested in seeing a movie during this time, go see some of the Oscar contenders. Her is fantastic. The Wolf of Wall Street is way funnier than Ride Along, and it’s not even a straight-up comedy. If you have to seek out a certain theater to see some of these movies, do it because it’ll probably be worth it. Ride Along will be at your local Redbox soon enough.