Well, that didn’t take very long at all. Only a few weeks into 2014 and I’ve already seen a strong contender for my Worst of the Year list. Ride Along is a listless, uninspired, and laugh free buddy comedy that had me almost looking at my watch more often than the screen. Mediocre at its best and painfully unfunny at its worst, this film wastes the potential of Ice Cube and Kevin Hart as a comedic team while trolling in every single cop movie cliche that director Tim Story and scribes Greg Coolidge, Phil Hay, Matt Manfredi, and Jason Mantzoukas can come up with. The flick screams “this once upon a time was a concept aimed at different actors and we just kept mixing and matching until we had to start shooting”, and lo and behold, original Dwayne Johnson and Ryan Reynolds were supposed to star. I’m not sure if Johnson and Reynolds would have fared any better than Cube and Hart did, but I’m not sure they could have done worse. Most of the fault lies at the feet of Story and his screenwriting team, but the cast doesn’t help themselves out one bit either. Ride Along never becomes unwatchable, but it never comes anywhere close to being a decent movie either. It’s just a very poor action-comedy to start off the new year with.
The plot is basically just a spin on the mismatched guys solving a crime sub-genre of cop comedies. Ben (Hart) is a video game obsessed High School security guard about to be accepted into the Police Academy in Atlanta. He hopes that becoming a real cop will impress the brother of his girlfriend Angela (Tika Sumpter). James (Cube) is a Detective in the Atlanta Police Department and he can’t stand Ben. In an attempt to scare him off for good once Ben asks James for his blessing to ask Angela to marry him, James invites Ben on a ride along to show him what the job is like. He’s prepared a bunch of staged incidents to get rid of Ben, and all seems to be going according to plan, until a real investigation that he’s been doing comes into play at the same time. Before long, Ben is along for a real ride with James as a murderous drug dealer, crooked cops, and other standard issue tropes of this kind of film come into play. Of course, at no time does anything original happen, so we’re reduced to countless scenes of Ben trying to apply video game logic to police work while James glares at him with disdain. Go figure, he and I had something in common…
There’s nothing really to speak of in terms of the acting here, as no one in the cast is given much to do by the director and writers. Kevin Hart is appealing in the right role, but he grated on me here, playing a buffoon who never really transforms into a character worth caring about. Hart flails around a lot and talks about video games, and that’s about it. At the same time, he does have more personality than Ice Cube is allowed to have here, as he almost exclusively has to walk around angrily and growl at people. He’s been good in the past, but he’s absolutely wasted here. They also have no chemistry together at all, which is inexcusable in a movie of this nature. The same sense of being wasted goes for the rest of the cast, which includes John Leguizamo, Laurence Fishburne, Bruce McGill, and the aforementioned Tika Sumpter, among others. It’s as if they realized that this wasn’t a fully thought out idea midway through production and just tried to make the process as painless on themselves as possible. If that’s the case, I can’t say that I blame them on bit.
I’ll admit to actually being interested in this flick at one point because I’ve grown to like a podcast that Mantzoukas is on (How Did This Get Made? is the one, and honestly, I hope they use this movie in a future episode), but when I realized that Tim Story was directing, my interest was tempered. Story’s directorial history is a mix of mediocrity and disappointment, so it’s no surprise that we get more of the same here. Granted, Story is armed with a crap screenplay from Coolidge, Hay, Manfredi, and Mantzoukas, but the script is only one problem. Story never makes the film look interesting at all or gives the actors any noticeable direction. Everyone just drifts along aimlessly. At an hour and 40 minutes long, the film is also about 20 minutes too lengthy as well, which only increased my dislike of it.
In the end, Ride Along is exactly what you expect a January release to be. It’s a crummy movie released solely to get it out of the way and hopefully to make some money as well. I think it’ll ultimately make a few bucks, but boy does it not deserve to. With all of the Oscar contenders out for public consumption, you really have no excuse not to pass this one up. Ride Along is 100% a must miss.
–Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!