Released in early 2014, Ride Along is a buddy-cop comedy from Fantastic Four (the less terrible one) director Tim Story. Starring Ice Cube and Kevin Hart, and spawning a sequel released in Q1 2016, is Ride Along a film worthy of having the 2nd highest January opening weekend of all time?

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(C) Universal Pictures

Ride Along stars Kevin Hart as Ben Barber, a high school security guard and avid gamer that aspires to be a member of the Atlanta Police Department. He also wants to finally marry his long-term partner Angela (Tika Sumpter), but doesn’t have the approval of her brother James (Ice Cube). James makes Ben a deal: if he can spend a day as a ride along and get into the Atlanta PD, he can marry his sister but, typically, plenty goes wrong.

Probably the first thing to ever discuss when reviewing a comedy film is the quantity and quality of jokes, and Ride Along is pretty middling on this criteria. There are a few gags here and there, mostly thanks to the wonderful chemistry between the two leads. Ice Cube’s deadpan, serious performance wonderfully parallels the light-hearted tone of Hart’s performance, with both having adequate acting chops to pull these roles off. Some jokes are pretty juvenile, and this isn’t high-brow by any definition of the word – but from a director that has collaborated with Hart four times in as many years – it’s not really the mindset to have going in to Ride Along.

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(C) Universal Pictures

Unlike the reservations I had with the comedy, the plot of Ride Along is surprisingly solid. What starts off as a typical buddy comedy has a few interesting turns that I don’t want to spoil, but the film’s four screenwriters have managed to pull together an interesting and unique spin on this genre. There’s a number of plot elements in here that you won’t find in typical comedies: Ben’s obsession with video games is a less common personality trait in major comedies, and the ramifications it has on the plot are quite interesting. And there are a number of turns as well – they don’t have the gravitas to label as twists in my opinion – that add an extra layer to the film, and reveal a bit more about the characters shown here. The one major complaint I have with the plot is perhaps its pacing: there is definitely a point where you feel the main events of the film are behind you, but then it picks up for yet another action scene, which could probably have been omitted.

And taking a look behind the camera, Ride Along isn’t something special either. Larry Blanford’s cinematography is uninspired and by-the-books, without the flair or originality of other recent films, but it’s by no means appalling: action scenes are handled confidently (he has got Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer in his filmography), but, as a lot of elements of this film, with little originality. The soundtrack is a bit of an anomaly, because there’s a bunch of songs on it that really click with the tone and attitude the film is going for, particularly from artists like B.o.B and 2 Chainz. It blends perfectly with the film, and is truly one of its most commendable attributes. Finally, the editing of this film is pretty good, with a lot of nicely cut shots that ramp up the intensity in fight scenes, but other than that, as rudimentary as it gets.

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(C) Universal Pictures

The best way to watch Ride Along is by reminding yourself of what it is: a reasonably by-the-numbers, generic comedy with a few elements that poke their head above the rafts of middling comedies audiences are swamped with recently. It’s got a number of promising elements, but it’s just a bit too mediocre and by-the-books to ever be anything more than a generic action-comedy popcorn flick. Needless to say, I won’t be checking out Ride Along 2.

★★½

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