Thankfully, Ride Along takes us out of the Month of Meh in hilarious fashion.
As we've lamented before, films in January are usually forgettable tripe thrown together to literally get Hollywood past the doldrums of the Oscar season. The results are usually just as bad - from The Legend of Hercules to The Nut Job and The Marked Ones. Thankfully, our first REAL movie of 2014 arrives with the hilarious buddy-cop Ride Along, reminding us that Januaries are not so bad.
High school security employee Ben Barber (Kevin Hart) wants desperately to join the Atlanta Police Department, hoping to take his online Xbox handle as BlackHammer to the streets. He also hopes to win the hand of his girlfriend Angela (Tika Sumpter), whose brother James Payton (Ice Cube) already serves on the force. However, James doesn't have a great opinion of Ben, whom he thinks is not ready for either the police or his sister. Payton decides to take Ben on a ride along, purposely exposing him to every undesirable call in the hopes of frustrating Ben to quit his dream. But that's going to get in the way of Payton's real goal: pursuing a shadowy drug/gun dealer (Laurence Fishburne), whom no one has lived to describe. As Payton and Ben clash over style, Angela gets caught in the middle, forcing her heroes to make desperate choices to protect her.
Director Tim Story hasn't had a really great film career - although he directed the successful but dubious Think Like a Man, he is primarily responsible for giving us the dreaded Fantastic Four franchise that is thankfully being rebooted. But here, he gives Hart a chance to let loose, even though the serious parts of the script by Writers Greg Coolidge and Jason Mantzoukas are as contrived and predictable as they come. There's the feisty Lieutenant (Bruce McGill) who doesn't like the renegade Payton, the dirty cops (JohnLeguizamo and Bryan Callen), and the aforementioned arms dealer whom we wished Story had left out from the early credits, as he appears almost as a cameo. But somehow, Story keeps this ship afloat with plenty of laughs and uncomfortable moments for Hart to squeal over. He's obviously a fish out of water around the tough cop Payton, and Hart plays it well - check out the smacktalk with a little kid on the basketball court, or his 'fight' with a 5150 and a jar of honey. Cube is his usual over-the-top angry dude, but again it just somehow works, with the two keeping us in stitches throughout most of the film.
Critics are going to kill this one for being predictable and superficial, but we think audiences will enjoy it for what it is. Sure, it doesn't pave new roads in the Buddy-Cop genre and would get crushed as a Summer release, but Ride Along is funny from start to finish,finally breaking the streak of bad films to kick off 2014. We think it will do quite well against these early and terrible flicks, something we're sure the critics will also dislike. If that kind of success is something critics detest, then we hope people line the streets to see it. We can't take this sort of diet through March or even February, but for now Ride Along is good enough food for our movie soul. Ride Along is rated PG-13 for violence, language, and sexual suggestions and has a runtime of 100 minutes.
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