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When we first started reviewing, twenty something years ago, it was because we felt some critic had no idea what real people felt about movies, and what the cost of obtaining a film was worth to our wallet. So we pay attention to the reactions of real people in real audiences -- most of the time. Some films don't sneak the way they did twenty years ago and we see 'em like any other critic. So that is how a middle aged white guy wound up in an audience for Ride Along, a film whose marketing targets African Americans.
Well... that's what you assume, right? Black people in the case so therefore a "black" movie. We don't particularly care about that. Funny is funny. Good is good. Director Tim Story knows what he's doing and so we open with a quote taken from the woman sitting behind me...
IN SHORT: "This is Stupid." [Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence, sexual content and brief strong language. 100 minutes]
Stupid doesn't mean she wasn't laughing as much as everyone else in our audience. It took a while to get rolling but when Ride Along got up to speed, well, it goes like this . . .
Pre-Feminism, it was the culturally correct Thing To DO: A young man, enamored of a young woman, would ask the father for her hand in marriage. Asking for (her) hand, of course, implies that (she) is no more than property. That, of course, is wrong. So, if the request is made, it is now given as a sign of respect . . . at least that's how my married friends finesse it.
Ride Along is a terribly written comedy which introduces us to the deeply in love couple of Ben Barber (Kevin Hart) and the very lovely Angela Payton(Tika Sumpter). Ben is trying to establish a life that will be economically worthy of his bride-to-be. He wants to be a cop. He's applied to the Police Academy. He talks a lot about how he's going to protect the fine people of Atlanta. His ramblings also imply that he has done time in Afghanistan, though we weren't sure about that until halfway through the film. We do know that Ben is a Platinum Level player in the Afghan War vidgame he is glued to in the apartment he shares with Angela.
Ben also talks a lot about a significantly large portion of his anatomy, something his fiance would know all about.
Ben talks. A lot.
On the other side there is Angela's big brother James (Ice Cube), a big wig detective on the Atlanta Police Force. With partners Santiago (John Leguizamo) and Miggs (Bryan Callen) the team have spent two years tracking a Serbian arms dealer named Omar (Laurence Fishburne). They also deal with petty arms thievery, which is what brings this whole story together.
Ben wants to be a cop. James doesn't think Ben has any idea of what "being a cop" entails -- everything Ben knows he's learned from nonstop video game playing. He sure hasn't developed any kind of people skills from his gig as a high school security guard. So James agrees to let Ben "ride along" for a day, to get a taste of what "being a cop" really means.
James has made a deal with the Dispatcher, to send all the "126" calls -- the losers that are always dumped on Rookie cops -- his way. James also rigs some other surprises to make his (almost) brother-in-law's day miserable, but we'll leave that alone. If you watch enough movies, what happens in the plot is incidental to the real purpose of the film ... creating a new "buddy movie" team for a new generation. In this cultural setting, the "n" word flies fast and furious as do other "R" rating worthy adjectives and adverbs. That is all yadda yadda.
In the background is the police boss Lieutenant Brooks (Bruce McGill). McGill presence is as much a salute to the Father of all raucous comedies (Animal House) as is the occasional appearances of Cheech and Chong on monitors in the background of certain locations. Ride Along is a comedy that knows where it comes from and knows what it wants to be. The editing in the Third Act is so atrocious that it almost sinks the entire film, which pauses (thankfully) just long enough to introduce a surprise to the story.
Surprise is good. The explosions and gunfire that follow not so much. We've used the word "mess" a whole bunch of times and, noting that it applies equally to dialog and effects, we're going to leave it at that.
Are there significant and/or surprising effects (whether explosions or stunts or stuff like that) to make an audience go "whoa!"? Yes.
Does the film establish a great new team that we'd want to see again? Not so much. Cube has total control of the screen. Hart flaps around like the proverbial chicken w/o head. Without giving away substantial plot information that would affect the end of the movie, we'll just say that almost nothing that (physically) happens in the last twenty or so minutes of the film could possibly happen. Which is why it is a good thing to happen in a movie 'cuz anything can happen in a movie.
Most important, is the film funny? Yes, it is. Cranky was laughing enough that we enjoyed this thing so, there you have it.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Ride Along, he would have paid . . .
Ah, what can we say, readers. Ride Along is an adequate comedy, as seen. Yours Cranky, having sat through dozens of wannabees of this type sees a half-cooked potential masterpiece. Ride Along coulda been a contender...; <g>
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