In my most shameful of fantasies, I almost wish Ride Along were worse than it is. At least then I’d be able to say, “Fuck the police” and feel almost witty about it. But truth be told, this blasé cop comedy isn’t a painful experience, it isn’t entirely a bore, it’s just not very funny or interesting or even worth the precious neurons that would have to fire if you ever tried to remember it in detail.
Ice Cube plays Ice Cube, but he’s a cop. Kevin Hart plays Kevin Hart, but he wants to be a cop. We needn’t bother with their character names, since to audiences all over they’re playing themselves, referencing NWA songs and taking advantage of Hart’s ability to talk quickly and poke fun at the fact that he’s not very tall. Kevin Hart wants to marry Ice Cube’s sister Angela (Tika Sumpter), but Cube thinks Hart doesn’t have what it takes to be a conventional alpha male, because Hart likes video games and doesn’t resort to violence to solve all his problems.
To prove his point, Cube takes Hart on a ride along, promising to give Hart his blessing if Hart proves he has what it takes to do Cube’s job, without any of the training or experience necessary to, you know, actually do that. Hart accepts, because this is a movie. Also because this is a movie, Cube tells dispatch to only assign them the most annoying, difficult and pointless tasks throughout the day, just to stack the deck against a well-meaning guy who’s desperately trying to extend an olive branch to a potential brother-in-law who hates him for no reason.
I get the distinct impression that we’re supposed to sympathize with Ice Cube’s character, but for the life of me I can’t fathom why. His motives are condescending to both his sister and to Kevin Hart, his actions make a mockery of a very important job, and we’re supposed to laugh at the various ways he makes his co-star uncomfortable and/or endangered throughout the movie. Hart proves himself early on to be an intelligent, sweet guy who, in his job as a high school security guard, can use clever reasoning to talk a promising student out of juvenile delinquency. But once the plot actually begins, the movie forgets that Hart's not an impotent buffoon, presumably because torturing the weak, well intentioned and blameless is funny these days. (See also: Identity Thief. Or rather, never see Identity Thief.)
But although Ride Along has a muddled setup, Cube and Hart are still Cube and Hart: affable screen presences even when they’re not saying or doing anything interesting or funny. It’s hard to hold on tight to any animosity you might hold towards Tim Story’s trope-riddled film because the stars, at least, seem to be having fun. It would have been nice if they’d let the audience have some fun as well, but that may be too much to ask of a hackneyed January release.
Like the similar, superior The Heat before it, Ride Along goes on too long, concluding every plot point of note and only then getting to the third act where all the fighting and shooting and kidnapping commences. As if that’s what we bought our ticket for. A brisk pace might have helped Ride Along make the most of what mattered: a simple, likable buddy comedy routine about a guy who just wants to be liked and the guy who doesn’t like him. Instead, it’s a padded, distracted misfire that doesn’t so much ride along as it does coast on long-expired cop movie clichés and uninspired comedic situations.
Let's just forget the police this time.