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Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington Wilmington@moviecitynews.com

Wilmington on Movies: Ride Along

 

 

RIDE ALONG (Two Stars)

U.S.: Tim Story (2014)

Ride Along, which grossed over 40 million dollars in its opening  week,  is  a big, glossy, ultra-predictable  buddy cop movie in which costars Ice Cube (Boyz n the Hood) and Kevin Hart (Think Like a Man) and director Tim Story (Barbershop) pull a comedy variation, or try to, on the 2001 Denzel WashingtonEthan Hawke cop thriller Training Day. One of those movies that a big part of the public apparently likes and that most critics (understandably) don’t, Ride Along is better acted and shot than it is written or directed.  The  jokes aren‘t very funny; the cast is mostly wasted.

That cast though, is a pretty damned good one.  The costars and the rest  of them (Cube, Hart, Tika Sumpter, John Leguizamo, Bruce McGill, and Laurence Fishburne) are amiable company, and they could all be funnier, of course, if only somebody gave them  a script, or let them improvise an entirely new one — or maybe brought in Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke to act as advisors and buddy cops emeritus. (To be fair to the writers, a lot of the movie does have a semi-improvised feel.)

Anyway, in this shameless cliché’-fest, Ice Cube plays James Payton, a surly but super-competent veteran Atlanta cop,  and Kevin Hart is Ben Barber, a motormouth prospective rookie who’s given a ride-along (a day in a cop car, with a cop) conducted by James. Ben is  also, not coincidentally,  the boyfriend and prospective husband of James’ glamorous sister Angela (Tika Sumpter, of “Gossip Girl” ). When Ben —  a 5’ 2” high school security guard who spends much of his days playing video war and shoot-out games —  is chosen as a cop trainee-candidate, he falls into the clutches of James, who doesn’t want him for a brother-in-law, and means him no good, and picked for  the day-long ride-along in which Ben is supposed to prove himself as would-be cop and brother-in-law — and ultimately as ride-along buddy. Ben  is deliriously confident that he’ll make it. James, whose scowl is his umbrella, is pragmatically confident that he won‘t.

Anyway, on this particular ride-along,  you can be fairly sure — make that damn sure — that…

Spoiler Alert

1: …James will do everything possible to mess Ben up, including sending the poor gabby little schmo up against  a posse of sullen Hell‘s-Angels-looking bikers, a chopper-gang so tough that one of their mamas  has a goatee.

2. Ben will repeatedly make a complete fool of himself , but later redeem himself in some stellar way.

3. The higher ups in the Atlanta police department, notably Bruce McGill (Animal House)  as unhappy Lt. Brooks, will become increasingly perturbed at the comical mayhem following  in the wake of the ride-along duo, though James and Ben’s misadventures will bring grins to the faces of their fellow cops — especially James’s jocular partners Santiago (Leguizamo of Romeo and Juliet) and Miggs (Bryan Callen  of The Hangover).

4.. , While Ben flounders ever more haplessly, James will pull ever more fiendish jests, such as brining in a nude, berserk  cop-in-disguise to run amok in a grocery market.

5.  Armed criminals will somehow threaten or discombobulate Angela,  to their eventual regret.

6. James and Ben will become involved in some high-profile police case that will give them both opportunities to brilliantly distinguish themselves or foul up atrociously. In this case, that case of cases is  an investigation into the doings of  a band of Serbian gun-runners and local Atlanta outlaws, led by the mysterious Omar — a nefarious Atlanta czar of crime whom James has been pursuing for years, and who has apparently never been seen by anybody, possibly since his birth.  The mysterious Omar is played, mysteriously, by that excellent actor Laurence Fishburne (of Apocalypse Now). Ah, Apocalypse Now, now there was a movie… Not that anyone involved here, including director Story  and four writers, working in three shifts  (Greg Coolidge, Jason Mantzoukas,  Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi), were trying to match Francis Coppola’s great Vietnam War Epic, or, for that matter, Training Day. Or for that matter, Barbershop.

7. In  the grand finale of all grand finales, Jonah Hill, as General George Sherman, marches through Atlanta, and burns it to the ground, using incendiaries purchased from The Mysterious Omar by Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Craig Robinson and James Franco: Kevin Hart’s cast-mates  in This is the End, all of whom arrive by flying saucer and flee with Angela to the still ongoing wrap party for Spring Breakers.

Well, that last one is a joke (sorry). But none of the others are. Or should I say they try to be jokes, but something keeps getting in the way, perhaps the script. If there was a script.

End of Spoiler

Let me explain. Kevin Hart (Scary Movie 4) seems to have been in about seventy or eighty movies recently, and  though this one may be among the most lucrative, it’s not the best. He’s a comedian of formidable energy and fiery wit, but his character doesn‘t make much sense. What about Ben, we wonder, beyond his allegedly spectacular natural endowments, attracts  Angela to this video game junkie and high school security guard? Wouldn’t it have been better to make him, instead of a nerdy pipsqueak, someone more obviously brainy with an equally good reason for getting a ride-along:  a teacher or a crime reporter or even a stand-up comedian who wants to be a cop? Of course, Ben  winds up as the hero of the movie, or co-hero, but nobody knew that unless they read the screenplay.

As for Ice —  whom many critics seem to like to call Cube (although I prefer Ice or even, as the New York Times might have it,  Mr. Cube) — the one-time gangsta rapper, even though he has a more plausible character as a tough street cop, too often gets shoved to the side. Not that movies like this should be models of real life and verisimilitude, but they ought to at least make some sense within their own sensibility.  Meanwhile, the plans are already in motion for Ride Along 2, in which one hopes that we see more of The Mysterious Omar . Who says that crime doesn’t’ pay?

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Wilmington

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