San Francisco Chronicle
POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Jan 17, 2014
"Ride Along" is such a formula effort that you might be able to get the same effect imagining it as watching it. Just lower the lights, get into a comfortable chair and contemplate Kevin Hart and Ice Cube riding together in a police car … a fast-talking funny guy and a slow-talking surly guy … not liking each other … yet slowly bonding … as they go after a major mob boss.
Thirty years ago, this movie was called "48 Hrs." Fifteen years ago, it was called "Rush Hour." It has been called about 50 other things since, but you can have the whole experience free by just thinking about it, and your version will be just as good as this one.
Yet, movie formulas don't arise because they're repulsive. They arise because they have an inherent appeal, and so, in its humble way, does "Ride Along." At times, watching Hart and Ice Cube step into these roles is like watching some secular version of a passion play, an endlessly repeatable archetypal thing in which the actors are interchangeable and the tradition is all that matters.
Or better yet, it's like watching an opera you've seen so many times there's no suspense over whether Violetta survives consumption. No, the only suspense is whether the soprano will go for the high note at the end of Act I. Those are the real questions: What kind of soprano is Kevin Hart? What kind of baritone is Ice Cube? And the most truthful answer is friendly but unexciting: They're OK. They're pretty good.
"Ride Along" was directed by Tim Story, who was also behind "Think Like a Man," the 2012 film that launched Hart as a comic actor. Here Hart is Ben, a security guard who plays video games all day. Newly accepted into the Atlanta police academy, he hopes to have enough money to marry his girlfriend (Tika Sumpter). But he also wants the respect and blessing of her brother, a big, tough police detective named James (Ice Cube).
Most of "Ride Along" takes place over the course of one long day, in which Ben goes on a "ride-along" with James. Ben wants to prove he has what it takes to be a police officer, and James hopes to scare him off.
The movie has no bad scenes, and one good one in which Laurence Fishburne stars as the most dangerous man in Atlanta.
Hart is funny, but also sensitive, and driven somehow. This underlying quality doesn't get much of a workout here, but it's a presence, something giving body to the movie's empty form. And in one or two scenes, particularly in the opener, Ice Cube reminds us of what was apparent from "Boyz N the Hood" many years ago: He's a fine dramatic actor, or could be, if he ever appeared in dramas.