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'Ride Along' drives in circles

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Ride Along


The new odd couple-turned-buddy comedy, ‘Ride Along,’ brings a watered-down version Eddie Murphy’s classic ‘48 Hrs.’ to the millennial masses.

For cinephiles, January, unfortunately, is known as one of the ‘dumping months’ for less-than-stellar films. Studios do not put their tentpole films up to compete during the post-Christmas, polar-vortex, almost-Superbowl month. Although, occasionally, there is a surprise exception, say 1991’s ‘Silence of the Lambs,’ audience members can safely generalize that January releases are a bit under par.

Following the January trend is the new Kevin Hart-Ice Cube vehicle, ‘Ride Along.’ The comedic duo find themselves linked together when Ben Barber (Hart) is finally admitted to the police academy and promptly seeks the approval of his girlfriend’s older brother, hardcore Atlanta police officer James Payton (Cube), in order to propose marriage. Payton wants the soft, wannabe police cadet (who currently works security at a high school) out of his younger sister’s (Tika Sumpter) life. As such, Payton ‘agrees’ to chaperone Barber on a day-long police ride along to underhandedly drive the diminutive police recruit away from his sister (and away from professional law enforcement) by taking him on numerous ‘nuisance’ calls. Things, of course, soon get more complicated when the pseudo-situations Payton has set up unintentionally lead to a serious criminal investigation.

‘Ride Along’ suffers from a sadly clichéd plot that checks off classic buddy comedy elements without finesse and telegraphs its plot points so that no plot twist surprises. A funny, jokester with a serious guy? Check. Unseen criminal supported by heavily accented henchman? Check. Jokey, precocious streetwise kid cameo? Check. Double-crossing dudes? Check. Funny guy transformed in the eyes of serious guy? Check and double check.

‘Ride Along’ would suffer from total mediocrity if it weren’t for the fervent, ‘I’ll-get-you-to-like-me,’ nonstop comedy of Hart. Hard-working, likeable Hart propels the film forward and is responsible for the film’s occasional big laughs, as Cube just sort-of ‘phones in’ his straight man gig. On the other hand, the film is refreshingly (and surprisingly) slightly more toward the PG-side of its PG-13 rating. If only director Tim Story had been able to combine the film’s relatively ‘modest’ fun with a few novel plot elements, Hart’s vivacity might have been able to really drive ‘Ride Along’ home.

Interestingly, and perhaps because there are few comedies opening during this ‘dump’ month, ‘Ride Along’ is tracking to make a cool $30-million-plus during its opening weekend, accelerating past the somewhat superior ‘Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit’ (opening the same date). Those numbers likely mean that this is not Hart and Cube’s last ride. Let’s hope that the next go-round will produce a comedy that’s sharper and leaner. ‘Ride Along’ gets 3 of 5 stars (‘very mildly recommended’) but might more readily be enjoyed later on the small screen at home.

‘Ride Along’ is rated PG-13 for ‘sequences of violence, sexual content and brief strong language.’

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