|Ice Cube (left) and Kevin Hart|
in the hit comedy "Ride Along"
Hart was steadily appearing in movies starting around 2003 but his first, real shot was in the film Think Like a Man (2012). That shot was a good move because it launched Hart into the stratosphere. In fact, Think Like a Man was # 1 in the box office for two straight weekends, grossing nearly $100 million after 12 weeks. As a result, we are now bombarded with Hart in a ton of movies, either in supporting or leading roles. Hart even has his own TV series.
His presence wasn't much of a help in Grudge Match (2013), but as we go into this first weekend of Black History Month, Hart's Ride Along has celebrated its third weekend as the # 1 movie. It became the # 1 movie for the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend and as of February 5th, it has made just as much money than Think Like a Man in a quarter of the time. In only three weeks, it's at $93 million.
Kevin Hart stars as Benjamin Barber, a security guard at a public high school. Yet, he aspires to become an officer working the Atlanta Police Department. His fiancé is Angela, played by Tika Sumpter (A Madea Christmas and Sparkle). Her brother is James, played by Ice Cube (Are We There Yet? and Barbershop), a tough, overly-protective, Atlanta P.D. detective whom Benjamin or Ben wants to impress.
Ben wants James' approval, not only because it's important to Angela, but also because he literally burned James a while ago in a barbecue accident and James can give Ben a good recommendation to the police academy. James doesn't like Ben, so James decides to do whatever he can to break Ben's spirit and push him away. James decides to do so all in one day during a ride-along. At the same time, James is investigating an illegal, weapons smuggler known as Omar.
Directed by Tim Story (Barbershop and Think Like a Man), this film is essentially a buddy cop film somewhere between Beverly Hills Cop (1984) and Bad Boys (1995). Sadly, it's not as funny as either of those two. I wouldn't say it's necessarily a problem with the screenplay by Greg Coolidge, Jason Mantzoukas, Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi, even though the potentially funny situations that are setup, the so-called 126's, aren't nearly as good as similar situations in the FX drama The Shield.
I can buy Ice Cube as the action star that this movie clearly wants him to be. Ice Cube is handsome and does have charisma, as films like Higher Learning and Friday prove, but, even though he has been in several comedies, he's supremely not funny here. Some might think he's not meant to be, but if you analyze the aforementioned buddy cop films like Beverly Hills Cop or Bad Boys, each of the two buddies had comedic beats to play.
Ice Cube here is established in the first half as nothing but an antagonist to Kevin Hart. Aside from annoyed reaction shots to Hart's fast-talking, loudmouth shtick, Ice Cube really wasn't given any comedic beats to play. That being said, the dynamic between Ice Cube and Hart during their in-car conversations is compelling and enjoyable, as Ben tries desperately if not persistently to ingratiate himself to James, James' consistent resistance, and James' slight bemusement at Ben's desperation and contrived failure.
It's good but not as good as the dynamic in the recent buddy cop film The Heat, starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy. Nevertheless, I do like the appearance of comedic actors Jay Pharoah (Saturday Night Live) who plays Runflat, an informant that helps lead to Omar, and Gary Owen (Daddy Day Care and Think Like a Man) who plays Crazy Cody, a so-called 126. Both Pharoah and Owen are hilarious and adorable in their own ways. The film also has two great scenes: the strip club scene and the warehouse scene, which reveals who Omar is. The actor of which, opposite Ice Cube, makes the film a semi-Boyz N the Hood (1991) reunion. Cool points for that!
Three Stars out of Five.
Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence, sexual content and brief strong language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 39 mins.