Ride Along | C
Kevin Hart, a hyperactive, bug-eyed half-pint, is a very popular stand-up comic, and currently a hot name in Hollywood casting circles — though his having two starring vehicles simultaneously dumped into the mid-winter graveyard doesn’t bode well for his matinee idol potential. The serviceable, uninspired buddy-cop comedy Ride Along might not make him a superstar, but it will likely do good business, as it offers undemanding audiences an enjoyable formula with absolutely zilch in the way of surprise or innovation.
Ice Cube, or at least the cuddly, acting approximation of the once fearsome rapper, costars as James, a hardass Atlanta undercover detective tasked with a day of light police work: babysitting his kid sister’s dorky, wannabe academy cadet boyfriend Ben (Hart). The grizzled lawman has no intention of taking it easy on this overeager spazz, staging an elaborate set of pranks to humiliate Ben, including confrontations with a biker gang, an extremely aggressive fourth-grader and a strip club full of gun-runners. Eventually the shenanigans are interrupted by a run-in with real, dangerous criminals, which the clueless Hart continues to treat as if they were part of the act. The third act devolves into the usual chase scenes and shootouts, which are indifferently staged by journeyman Tim Story, who helmed such non-classics as the Barbershop and Fantastic Four franchises. Story is such a feeble and careless director that he actually manages to make a jump from night to day within the same scene, a screw-up that would be embarrassing in a student film, let alone a wide release.
Not that the fans will care; they came for Hart’s rapid-fire shtick, and they’ll get bountiful helpings of it. He’s just the latest comic tracing the wisecracking footsteps of Eddie Murphy’s early career, like Martin Lawrence and Chris Tucker; though with his mixture of empty boasting and exaggerated, cowardly clowning, Hart is more more on the order of such comic icons as Lou Costello, Bob Hope and, for good or ill, Lincoln “Stepin Fetchit” Perry, the first black comedy film star. This is not to say that the sporadically funny Hart is in their league, but he often outperforms the lackluster material here. At one point, when a frightened Hart leaps into Cube’s arms a la Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin, there’s a bit of comfort in the feeling that everything old is new again.
Ride Along is rated PG-13, with a running time of 100 minutes and is in theaters Jan. 17.