MOVIE REVIEW: No Hart behind ‘Ride Along’

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First Posted: 1/20/2014

Fans of Tom Scharpling and his late, lamented radio program “The Best Show on WFMU” might remember his hilarious dissections of Ice Cube’s bizarre Coors Lite commercials. Even though Scharpling found the ads to be dumb and ridiculous, he still had genuine admiration for Cube and his commitment to playing himself as a man who is filled with barely concealed murderous rage for a can of Coors Lite. And why not? After all, this can of Coors Lite and its otherworldly coolness have ruined Cube’s parties, recording sessions, and life. Why shouldn’t he be angry? Any other actor or personality would have phoned these ads in, but Cube commits to this role with the kind of seriousness that’s usually reserved for someone essaying the role of Biff in a Broadway revival of “Death of a Salesman.” Cube’s eerie commitment continues in “Ride Along,” a film that he neither realizes nor cares is just a tossed off vehicle starring a soon to be forgotten “funnyman” and instead treats it with all of the gravitas of Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed.”

In “Ride Along,” Kevin Hart plays a slightly effeminate, video game-obsessed man-child whose unfeasibly hot fiancée (Tika Sumpter) requires Hart to get her brother’s (Cube) blessing before they can be married. The brother in question happens to be a lone wolf super cop in the “Dirty Harry” mold who coerces Hart to join him in a routine ride along in order to prove his worth and win Cube’s blessing. However, Cube rigs the ride along so that Hart must face the type of nuisance calls the police, apparently, ignore. But as Hart and Cube square off against bearded, belligerent biker chicks and enormous honey-covered naked dudes, they also manage to get themselves stuck in the middle of an enormous gun smuggling operation spearheaded by a shockingly bloated Laurence Fishburne. Will Hart manage to prove his worth to Cube? Will you be struggling to remember a single moment from this bland movie the moment the closing credits start to role? The answers will not surprise you.

In spite of the fact that alternative comedian Jason Mantzoukas is credited as one of the film’s co-writers, “Ride Along” is spectacularly old fashioned. In fact, as many critics have already noted, “Ride Along” plays exactly like a Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis comedy with Hart screeching, cowering, and even jumping into Cube’s arms at one point. It’s a fair and pretty apt observation because “Ride Along” does play like a Martin and Lewis comedy: a late period Martin and Lewis comedy. The kind where Martin and Lewis were no longer on speaking terms with each other and everyone in front of and behind the camera were lazily going through the motions. It’s comedy product at its most disposable.

Even though “Ride Along” is intended to be a breakthrough vehicle for Hart, he is clearly on auto-pilot here, giving us a watered-down version of his already watered-down comic persona. It’s no surprise, really, that the film’s biggest laughs (relatively speaking, of course) come from Cube, who at one point vividly fantasizes about murdering Hart’s annoying character and whose natural intensity makes a line like, “Thank you, ass-face,” more funny than it has any right to be. Basically, if not for Cube, this moderately irritating and nearly unwatchable film would be unbearably irritating and completely unwatchable. But with that said, if you really need to watch Cube angrily reacting to a comic foil, just go on YouTube and rewatch all of his Coors Lite commercials. They’re shorter, funnier, and, best of all, the can of Coors Lite will never make a stale dick joke in a nasally, high-pitched whine.

Rating: W V