Taking the largest January opening weekend box office of all time, this action-comedy, directed by Fantastic Four‘s Tim Story, stars Kevin Hart and Ice Cube. Hart plays Ben Barber, a gamer/security guard who’s just made it into the Police Academy and wants to propose to his girlfriend (Tika Sumpter). However, he has to get the approval of her brother (Ice Cube), James, so that James can take Ben on a “Ride Along” and crazy hijinks can ensue.
Ride Along attempts to establish its tone from the very first car chase – campy and entertaining. However, it doesn’t achieve this tone until the 3rd act; the majority of the film ends up being awkward and unfunny. Part of the reason for this is the awful cinematography. A large portion of the shots are poorly lit and uninspired. The film is uncomfortable to look at, and that really sucks out the energy. The editing isn’t any better. Between the inappropriate reaction shots, clunky pacing, and serious lack of continuity (most of the film is supposed to take place within one night, yet the sun comes up and goes down several times), the film feels more like a rough cut than a polished final product.
Instead of satirizing cop dramas like Training Day (2001), Ride Along becomes a mediocre version of them. The script is incredibly formulaic, and you can predict every beat far in advance. There are no surprises here. Despite crediting 4 writers, a large proportion of the dialogue is improvised, and these moments feel much more genuine than the clunky scripted dialogue.
It’s obvious that Hart is really trying his best in this film, and he really carries it. Ice Cube isn’t terrible, but he’s more or less going through the motions. The characters don’t really play off each other that well until the end. The two extremes – The awkward, fast-talking Hart and the angry, condescending Ice Cube – clash with each other and none of the jokes hit their mark.
Ride Along hit its tone in the last half hour or so, and actually started to be somewhat entertaining. However, the first hour is just excruciatingly awful, and the pay-off just isn’t worth it. The sequel bait at the end is far more unsettling than likely intended. 3/10.