It’s hard not to think of those classic Eddie Murphy cop films of the eighties and nineties when sitting through Ride Along (2014), the latest film to see Kevin Hart flex his comedic, box office-baiting, leading man muscles. There are many similarities between the two loquacious humorists, and while there is no denying Hart’s leading man potential he is still in search of a project that can fully utilise his talent. An uninspired buddy cop comedy, Ride Along means the wait continues. Directed by Tim Story (perhaps best known for helming Barbershop and Fantastic Four), Hart plays Ben, a garrulous video-game enthusiast with dreams of graduating from high school security guard to fully-fledged cop.
When the bumbling Ben miraculously gets accepted into the police academy, he believes now is as good a time as any to finally propose to his long-term girlfriend, Angela (Tika Sumpter). Before that can happen, however, our man must earn the blessing of Angela’s over-protective street detective James (21 and 22 Jump Street ball-breaker/one-time rapper Ice Cube) by proving he has what it takes on a ride along. Naturally, James is not much of a fan of Ben’s life outlook, and sets out to dissuade the prospective nuptials by making him miserable whilst simultaneously investigating the most important case of his career. It should come as no surprise that from the get-go you know exactly where this particular one-way ‘ride’ is going, but there are plenty of bumps en route to its unsatisfying conclusion.
A disappointing mix of comedy that only works sporadically and leaden action vignettes that never excite, the narrative is setup well enough but haphazard in its execution. This is particularly true of the concurrent plot to capture a criminal mastermind; by the time the villain has been revealed and our protagonists team-up to stop him, we’re past caring. Considering Story has already directed Hart in Think Like a Man (2012), you’d think he’d have a better idea of the comedian’s strengths and how to play to them, but too often it feels like Hart has been left to fend for himself. There are times when he’s able to pull it off, but the ratio is more than evened out with riffs where the funnyman’s shtick begins to grate. Elsewhere, comedic vets John Leguizamo and Bryan Callen are wasted on non-distinct supporting characters, whilst Sumpter’s Angela is one of the more underwritten damsels in recent memory. A few amiable segments here and there means that some may end up enjoying Ride Along more than they should, but as far as variations on the buddy cop comedy go, this is more miss than hit.