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Article by Teddy Durgin

Ride Along: Ice Cube and Kevin Hart Deserve a Better Vehicle

After watching "Ride Along" in preview last week, I had a real "What came first? The chicken or the egg?" debate go on in my head. What came first here? Ice Cube and Kevin Hart deciding to do a buddy cop movie together and commissioning a script that would suit each of their respective styles? Or was this a Screenplay 101 script that made the rounds of Hollywood in search of two conflicting personality types? A quick Internet search found that the project was originally intended for Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Ryan Reynolds. And, wow, would that have sucked! But therein lies the chief shortcoming of "Ride Along" in its current form. It feels like it started off life as a film for two other stars. The result is a well-constructed action caper whose comedy elements could have benefited from a sharper, funnier wordsmith writing with these two specific personalities in mind. Too often, Hart is just allowed to run off at the mouth in scenes, trying to get laughs where none are present on the page. Sometimes he hits big with a line or a snappy comeback. Other times, he just flails about hoping his energy will goose the audience. Ice Cube, meanwhile, is too often reduced to just glaring at Hart's antics. The writers should have realized the man delivers every line in the exact same cadence whether he's bellowing "%#&^ you" or "Please pass the salt," and taken advantage of that. Ice Cube plays James, a tough, no-nonsense Atlanta cop who prefers to maintain a loner profile. His life is complicated when his sister, Angela (Tika Sumpter), starts to get serious with a motor-mouthed security guard named Ben (Hart), who James sees as a buffoon. Ben wants only to join the police academy and get James' blessing to marry Angela. So, James decides to test the young man's mettle by taking him on a ride along. But to James' surprise, Ben proves adept at uncovering clues that may lead to the capture of Omar (Laurence Fishburne), an enigmatic master criminal James has been trying to arrest for years. Director Tim Story does a nice job balancing broad comedy with action. In recent years, these types of films have begun to skew more to the R-rated, hyper-violent side of things like last year's Denzel/Marky Mark mash-up "2 Guns." Here, the fights and the shootouts never get overly graphic or bloody. This is more in the vein of the "Rush Hour" flicks where it's funny to see little, five-foot-tall Kevin Hart get body slammed by Morpheus or for Ice Cube to toss a football at the back of Jay Pharoah's head (the "SNL" star has a funny cameo as a neighborhood snitch). This is one of those cases where I think a sequel, if this first film is successful, may actually make for a better film. If we do get "Another Ride Along," it'll definitely need more story, more Hart and a screenplay that breaks the Ice.

"Ride Along" is rated PG-13 for violence, sexual content and brief strong language.


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