What with the sequel RIDE ALONG 2 on the horizon and the eventuality of reviewing it, I have to admit that I didn’t really want to see it without seeing the first one. Yup, never saw it. Partly because Kevin Hart was kind of an unknown at the time. Sure, he’s probably well-known for his stand-up and he has had bit parts in movies in the past, but I think it’s safe to say that his star on the big screen got off the ground because of THIS movie right here. Soon as RIDE ALONG came out two years ago, he’s been in a healthy amount of movies since then. Well, this is the movie that started his rise to popularity and y’all know what that means. This is my honest opinion of RIDE ALONG.
Ben (Kevin Hart) is a good guy who wants to be a cop. Trouble is, he’s such a fanatical video gamer that he thinks just because he’s good in the virtual world, he’d be good in the real world. But that doesn’t stop him from believing in himself to impress his girlfriend Angela (Tika Sumpter), whom he plans on marrying. On the opposite side of the spectrum is Angela’s brother, James (Ice Cube). James is a real cop, hardcore, kicking asses, taking names, all that good stuff. Thing is, he doesn’t like Ben. At all. He also doesn’t see what Angela sees in Ben. Paying the two lovers a visit one night, being his usual critical self, he leaves with a chip on his shoulder, but not before Ben asks for James’ blessing to marry Angela, to which he promptly says no. But Ben doesn’t want to accept that as an answer and is eager to prove that he’s man enough to have Angela. James has a scheme in mind: have him ride along and give Ben a crash course on what it’s like being a cop. High jinks ensues until James’ long time involvement in a case involving a gang leader that no one’s seen before starts to turn up some serious evidence and now begins the process of getting rid of the ambitious Ben and getting back to what he really wants to do.
I didn’t like it. Yup, just coming out and saying that I didn’t care for it. In fact, I was downright insulted by this movie.
Let me start with one of my more prominent problems with the movie. James is completely unlikable. He’s an incredibly mean-spirited character toward Ben for some of the weakest reasons ever: something about how Ben accidentally burned James or whatever and that somehow means James hates Ben forever. But… what did that backstory add? He basically hates Ben simply because he’s dating James’ sister. Being an over-protective brother is reason enough, so why add a pointless backstory involving an accidental burning that meant nothing? Wouldn’t it be more interesting if Ben accidentally burned James and left him too injured to do field work anymore and was forced into a desk job? Wouldn’t that add a little more weight to his hatred for Ben? You can still have the entire plot of James trying to track down Omar and James disobeys his superiors by involving himself in the case. Hell, he could still do the “ride along” gimmick. But that’s just what would have made the movie better and not what the movie delivered.
Hell, that’s just my problems with the character of James. Get ready for what I believe to be biggest insult of the movie. Hart’s character: Ben
The tragedy behind this is that there could have been potential for social commentary. You have a guy who is a die-hard gamer who thinks that just because he knows video games somehow translates to being good in that same thing in reality: play CALL OF DUTY and be good at it, then thinking that because you’re good at it means you know you can be a real soldier. There’s even hints of humor of this idea toward the end. Without giving anything away, there’s a big shoot-out and Ben’s sub-machine gun runs out of ammunition. Like in a video game, you can reload by finding extra ammo on the ground. He does this, and while James think’s Ben is an idiot, guess what, Ben finds a magazine full of bullets. This is actually pretty funny.
But the problem is… that’s it. That’s the only funny moment. The rest of Ben’s character makes no real sense. How old is Ben? Mid to late thirties? I’m twenty-six years old. I was able to easily distinguish reality from fiction when I was SEVEN YEARS OLD!!! When I was playing MORTAL KOMBAT, I knew the characters I was uppercutting into the spike pit below wasn’t something I could actually do in real life. I knew I couldn’t flip or shoot fire-balls out of my hands. If I can have a sense of reality at that age, how does Ben not? WHY does he think that just because he kicks ass in a video game that he thinks he can kick ass in real life? The movie doesn’t even bother to ask why. It’s a joke that we’re supposed to accept as funny and it isn’t. It’s just pathetic.
It’s characters like this that give gamers a bad name. Gaming has always been a controversial issue as to whether or not gamers know to turn off their consoles or PCs and return to reality. Ben is a case of someone who can’t distinguish. It’d be interesting if it was a comedic character-study on a gamer who can’t, but it’s not. His delusions somehow DON’T get him killed, which in reality it would have, and he doesn’t really learn his lesson. He doesn’t acknowledge that there is a difference between reality and fiction. He just acknowledges that it’s harder than it looks. That’s not the same thing.
One character is an asshole, the other is a frustrating moron, I just couldn’t invest in anything. Now, I suppose this argument could be made: “Daniel, why are you taking it so seriously?” Because the best comedy is the kind of comedy that I CAN take seriously. Take the movie HOT FUZZ. It’s incredibly well-written with lovable characters. It’s a satire of action movies, but it’s still its own self-contained story. To boot, it has emotional draw. When character Nicholas Angel has figured out what’s wrong with the small town he’s assigned to, he tries desperately to get his friend and partner Danny Butterman to take down the bad guys with him, but due to personal reasons that were explored, Danny can’t bring himself to do it. He knows how wrong everything is, but he can’t be against or help his best friend. This is a really emotional and superbly-acted scene that I’m pretty sure made me cry the first time I saw it. Can you name me a time you cried during RIDE ALONG? Wanna guess why? Because the characters don’t feel like real people. They’re Nickelodeon cartoon characters with flesh and blood, and foul language.
Once again, I would believe if I’m part of a minority who doesn’t like this film. Obviously, it was successful enough to warrant a sequel, which I will review in time, but for me, it’s not anything special.