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I like Ice Cube. I like Kevin Hart. I don't like Ride Along. The comedic duo teams up in this not-buddy-cop movie that would have been a lot better as a riskier R-rated comedy. Hart plays Ben Barber, an avid gamer looking to marry the girl of his dreams. The only problem is his future brother-in-law, James Payton (Ice Cube), an Atlanta cop who thinks Barber is a pushover unworthy of his sister's affections. To prove Payton wrong, Barber applies to the Atlanta Police Academy and accepts Payton's invitation to go for a ride along. The critical consensus on this one is not pretty, but Ride Along made well over $100 million in the U.S. alone. I just wish the movie weren't so damn pedestrian. It's got two charismatic leads and some decent supporting players in John Leguizamo, Bruce McGill, Laurence Fishburne and Tika Sumpter, but Ride Along is surprisingly devoid of laughs. The cops vs. corruption narrative is as generic as it gets, and the film's $25-million budget didn't afford director Tim Story any respectable action sequences.
Not that it matters, but the Barber presented at the beginning of Ride Along is unlikely to land a woman like Sumpter, who plays the aforementioned dreamy lady Angela. This high-school security guard is a decent enough guy, but he proves incapable of supporting and protecting his would-be wife. Payton sneaks into the couple's home and surprises Barber, who shoves Angela into the nonexistent line of fire. To redeem himself, Barber agrees to spend the day patrolling the streets of Atlanta with Payton. Payton has no intention of letting Barber shine and instructs his dispatch to send their car to the city's least desirable calls. Loitering bikers and smart-ass children are about as bad as its gets, and Payton has a few tricks up his sleeve to further embarrass Barber.
The story always takes a backseat to the leads' chemistry in a film like this. See Rush Hour, Bad Boys, 48 Hrs. and Lethal Weapon for examples. Does anyone really remember the specific plots and villains from those movies? The chemistry here is not as good as I hoped. Ice Cube and Hart are both funny individually, but I didn't like them together. The story doesn't really allow them much funny banter. Ice Cube is the grouchy veteran to Hart's clumsy rookie, and Ice Cube spends most of the movie glaring at Hart. Most of their interactions feel forced, as if each was humming a different comedic tune. Each actor has a few funny lines, but most seem to be delivered while the other is out of frame.
Story, who directed Fantastic Four, proves to have little comedic timing. Ride Along consistently fires blanks in the laugh department, and the majority of its 100 minutes are dull. The plot involves the expected redemption for Barber in Payton's eyes as they track an elusive kingpin (Fishburne). This might have been funnier had Ice Cube and Hart been allowed to let loose. Hart can deliver some gleefully profane stand-up comedy, and Ice Cube has been better in R-rated comedies like Friday. The film too often seems restrained by its PG-13 rating, and the humor feels like juvenile sketch comedy outtakes. The action sequences are similarly lame, and the film's finale, which forgoes comedy for action, is especially boring. Let's hope the upcoming sequel changes a few things.
At least the movie looks good. Universal's 2.40:1/1080p/AVC-encoded image is expectedly crisp and detailed, with excellent depth and texture. The digital source is pristine, and shadow detail is excellent throughout. Skin tones are accurate, colors are nicely saturated, and there are no issues with banding or noise reduction.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix is boisterous. Action effects ripple through the surround speakers and are backed up with appropriate bass response. Dialogue is crystal clear and mixed well with these effects and the score. The clarity of the dialogue is strong, whether presented low or high in the mix, and the track's range is quite good. A Spanish 5.1 DTS track and an English 2.0 DVS track are also included, as are English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
Universal gives Ride Along the "combo pack" treatment. This two-disc set includes the Blu-ray, a DVD copy, and codes to redeem iTunes and UltraViolet digital copies. The discs are packed in an eco-case, which is wrapped in a slipcover.
Extras include an Audio Commentary by Director Tim Story, an Alternate Ending (1:42/HD), some Deleted Scenes (8:23/HD), an Alternate Take (1:38/HD), and a Gag Reel (2:59/HD). You also get some featurettes: It Was A Good Day: On the Set of Ride Along (11:52/HD); Kev and Cube's Wild Ride (5:16/HD); You Gonna Learn Today (4:39/HD); Anatomy of the Big Blast (4:50/HD); An Explosive Ride (5:08/HD); and Atlanta: The Character (3:19/HD).
Ride right past, this one's a dud. There are plenty of better buddy cop comedies out there. Ride Along made crazy money at the box office and a sequel is in production. Nevertheless, this movie wastes the talents of Ice Cube and Kevin Hart on an unfunny script and bland action set pieces. Skip It.
William lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.