A mainstream comedy that lets you know what to expect from the title, and the two leads, Ride Along is the kind of movie that it's almost redundant to review. Basically, a LOT of people will already know whether they're going to like or dislike this movie.
Ice Cube is a tough cop, James Payton, obsessed with catching the biggest criminal in the city. His main problem is that nobody knows what this criminal looks like. For every bust that takes him a step closer, James seems to find himself pushed a step back, either by criminals or his own superior (Bruce McGill). Kevin Hart is Ben Barber, a young man who is working as a security guard until he hopes to join the Police Academy and get a career in the force. His girlfriend, Angela Payton (Tika Sumpter), loves him very much, but she wants him to get on a bit better with her brother (yep, it's the tough cop) as they move forward in their relationship. Ben asks James for a chance to make up for one past mistake, a chance to prove himself, and so James arranges to pick him up for a ride along. Of course, he wants to make sure that Ben has a horrible time of it. That's all well and good until real criminals start to cause them some problems.
Written by four people, which is three too many when you think of the solid gag count, and directed by Tim Story, Ride Along is absolutely in line with numerous other mainstream comedy hits from the past few years. It relies on the draw of Cube and Hart, it offers no surprises at all, and it's designed to appeal to people after nothing more than 90 minutes of fun at their local cinema. That doesn't make it a terrible film. It doesn't make it evil. It doesn't mean that everyone should roll their eyes and start moaning about the death of cinema. It just means that this is designed to be the popular fast food option at the multiplex, vying with a few other fast food options to see who can ring more money through the tills for a couple of weeks.
Cube can do comedic anger in his sleep, and he's perfectly fine in his role, while Hart does . . . . . what he does. He's not to all tastes, and I'm not his biggest fan, but he's far from the most annoying person I've ever watched onscreen. In fact, the first half of the movie does throw him one or two moments that allow him to show that his character isn't just a one-dimensional buffoon. The fact that he knows so much information about weaponry because of his constant online gaming is also a fun additional detail. Sumpter is likable, McGill is always worth a watch, John leguizamo and Bryan Callen are both okay as Cube's colleagues, and Laurence Fishburne does well with his fairly limited screentime (it's a big shame that he didn't get to do more).
If you don't like fairly safe comedies then avoid this one. If you don't like Hart then avoid this one. At least it doesn't try to convince you that it's something it's not. I admit that I expected to hate the thing, but opted to "take one for the team". I ended up, however, smiling on a couple of occasions. I don't think I ever once laughed aloud, but I didn't feel pained at any point either. Faint praise, indeed, but praise nonetheless.