A little Kevin Hart goes a long way in “Ride Along,” a dull buddy picture engineered as a vehicle for the mini-motor mouth Hart and the perma-sneering Ice Cube.
It’s mismatched cops on patrol in Atlanta in this “48 Hours” / “Bad Boys” / “Showtime” / “The Hard Way” action comedy where four screenwriters tried to find funny bug-eyed rants for the normally amusing Hart to deliver in between shootouts and chases. But as producers of assorted Jim Carrey, Will Ferrell and Eddie Murphy movies could have told them, just pointing the camera at a funny guy is never enough to save a lame, worn-out idea.
Cube, whose career seemed over after one too many “Are We There Yet?” sequels, is cranky cop James, whose pursuit of a mysterious villain named Omar is interrupted by his sister’s fiance. That would be Ben (Hart), a video game-addicted school security guard who longs to bring his wise-cracking / voice-cracking banter to the Atlanta P.D. James drags Ben on a ride-along just to convince the dude he isn’t cut out for police work and that he isn’t good enough for James’ supermodel sister Angela (Tika Sumpter, all legs and shorts and cleavage and hair products).
James figures sis should dating an Atlanta Falcon, an Atlanta Brave “or even somebody from the Hawks.” Instead, she’s hooked up with this sweet-talking shrimp who’s “about one chromosome away from being a midget.”
No, James isn’t politically correct.
He drags Ben along for a “Training Day” of botched interventions with bikers, silliness at the shooting range and a strip club shootout. Because there’s no such thing as a cop buddy movie without a trip to a strip club.
Even by the standards of this well-worn genre, “Ride Along” is a lazy movie, insulting the audience by letting us stay five steps ahead of the hack screenwriters.
At several points, Hart takes center stage, plants his feet and unloads on a student headed down the wrong path, on a biker moll who has more facial hair than he can manage, etc. Sometimes, he finds a laugh or two. Often, these ranting monologues run out of gas before they start. His girlish shrieks at the first sign of danger are funnier, but not by much. And you start to wonder if Ice Cube’s feigned irritation with him involved any acting at all.
Hart has been funny in concert films and in supporting parts — a few killer scenes where he comes in, lands laughs, and splits — in everything from TV’s “Freaks and Geeks” to “Think Like a Man” and last summer’s “This is the End.” But as this film and his boring bit part in “Grudge Match” proved, a little of the little man is pretty much all we can stand unless he finds somebody who can write for him.