Ice Cube is totally dismayed by Kevin Hart's exuberance in "Ride Along." Credit: Quantrell Colbert
'Ride Along' Director: Tim Story Stars: Kevin Hart, Ice Cube Rating: PG-13 2 (out of 5) Globes
Kevin Hart’s star has risen quickly and sharply, so it’s understandable that film execs have rushed to put him in something, anything, and as many things as possible while he’s still fresh. But it would be nice if the movies gave him something more to do. Like “Grudge Match,” “Ride Along” seems to have been designed with the assumption that, with cameras rolling, Hart will do something, and whatever it is will be gold. He is funny, and he has an original presence: He’s a confident motormouth with massive insecurity problems. Most of the other characters mock his height, or lack of it. But Hart’s problems run deeper, and he’s usually the one to draw attention to that fact that, intense bluster aside, he’s really a scaredy-cat who wusses out the moment the heat is turned up.
“Ride Along” is so lazy that it usually forgets to exploit this running gag. A routine mismatched buddy picture, it pairs him with Ice Cube, who once again plays the law despite having made his name calling it out for its ills. The former N.W.A. member is the kind of hotshot detective who gets results (read: causes a lot of expensive damage while pursuing perps not exactly worth it). He’s on the case of an arms dealer (played by a surprise star whose name is still in the credits), but finds himself distracted by something worse: His sister is about to marry Kevin Hart.
Hart’s character is a rent-a-cop who wants to be a real one. Through video games, he’s erected a self-image as a badass, one whose idea of law enforcement comes from the movies. A wittier film would play more with this fantasy running smack into boring reality. “Ride Along” isn’t very witty, and so he just spends a day hanging with Cube, who wants to torture him a la Denzel Washington in “Training Day” — a parallel the characters naturally note, albeit well after the audience has noted it.
“Ride Along,” admittedly, has its moments, largely because it relies on Hart, and to a lesser extent Cube. The most charitable thing you can say about “Are We There Yet?” and its offspring is it was hilarious that the guy who once recorded a track called “If I Was F—in’ You” would be in family fare at all. But his weariness with his co-star — which inevitably evolves into reluctant respect — grows old. And there’s so little going on that “Ride Along” basically becomes the sight of Hart trying with all of his might and energy to make it watchable. It’s an ensemble farce that becomes a one-man show, albeit one where the star has to stick to the confines of a rote action-comedy and not allow his material to roam free.