'Ride Along': What the Critics Are Saying
Ride Along challenges Kevin Hart, who plays a security guard newly accepted for police academy training, to impress Ice Cube's James Payton, a hardcore undercover Atlanta police officer who wants to stop his sister from marrying Hart's Ben Barber.
Also starring Tika Sumpter, John Leguizamo and Bryan Callen and directed by Tim Story, the attempted comic riff on Training Day has a sequel in the works. Ride Along opened to a solid $1.1 million Thursday night and is predicted by observers to outperform the actual action film opening this holiday weekend: Kenneth Branaugh's Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, starring Chris Pine and Kevin Costner.
Read a sampling of what top critics are saying below:
The Hollywood Reporter's film critic Justin Lowe called the action-comedy flick "franchise-ready," noting that Cube's "well-worn persona" makes up for his lack of enthusiasm to the role. He added of Hart, "One of Hart's greatest assets is his nonstop motormouth, and the screenwriters give him plenty of opportunities to spew utterly inane statements and commit outrageous blunders. The running gag associating Ben's skill at military-themed video games and his ability to identify exotic weaponry gets plenty of mileage and remains well integrated with the main plot."
The New York Times' Neil Genzlinger agrees that the onscreen duo "creates a crowd-pleasing if predictable variation of the buddy cop movie. … The plot twists are easily guessed, and the film goes on for one predicament too long, but there are some good laughs. Mr. Hart is in self-deprecating mode, a more palatable persona than the brash one in his recent stand-up concert film, Let Me Explain, and it suits the slim material nicely."
Los Angeles Times' Betsy Sharkey, however, notes that Hart's comedy isn't enough to carry the film: "Tim Story, who directed Hart in his 2012 breakout Think Like a Man, pretty much puts everything on the comic's back and forgot that a movie needs a story. … Even a comedy about cops can't get away with being completely implausible, though this one certainly tries." She adds of Cube's unexplored potential, as seen in 21 Jump Street and Barbershop: "whether he's a good guy or bad, funny or not, Cube has proved he can do more than what he's given here."
The Chicago Tribune's Michael Phillips particularly disliked the film, noting that "the story has a bizarre undertone -- Cube's character is so creepily protective of his sister, played by Tika Sumpter in various states of decorative undress," and noted that much of the movie "is sexual molestation jokes, misjudged brutality and a general glorification of assault weapons. (The film's rated PG-13, and it'd be pretty stupid to take anyone under 12.)"
Still, USA Today's Scott Bowles considers the flick an overdue platform for Hart: "Diminutive, disarming and downright hilarious, the 5-foot-2 comedian is due for a breakout role, and this may be it. He was the lone high point of last month's train wreck Grudge Match, and he gives Ride just enough buoyancy to keep it afloat, despite a story that would sink most performances."