Energetic comic Kevin Hart is on the rise, and his buddy-cop movie with Ice Cube, “Ride Along,” will keep the momentum going for him. It’s fluff, but it’s fun.
Director Tim Story (“Barbershop,” “Fantastic Four”) is going for pure escapism here – that’s the deal when we climb in for this trip – and the pace is fast enough, the dialogue goofy enough and the violence hectic enough that we’re able to suspend disbelief long enough to enjoy the ride.
Hart is a diminutive force of nature as Ben Barber, an avid video gamer with dreams of becoming a police officer, and then a detective, and lieutenant and ... anyway, first he has to get into and through the Police Academy in Atlanta, where he shares a bare-brick, Pottery Barn-style condo with the lovely Angela (Tika Sumpter), whom he hopes to marry.
One thing stands in their way, and it isn’t his stature or lack of a current good job. Orphaned when her police officer father died, Angela won’t do anything without the blessing of her brother James (Ice Cube), the only family she has left, and a loner cop.
But James wants no part of Ben, “the little clown that’s about a chromosome away from being a midget.” He imagined his sister with someone with prestige, like a football player or one of the Atlanta Hawks, “not the mascot.” Yes, there are a lot of short jokes for the 5-foot-and-not-much-more Hart.
So, when Ben gets accepted into the academy and professes his love for both Angela and law enforcement, James sees his chance. He makes a deal that if Ben does well on a daylong ride-along, he’ll give his blessing.
Through a few hours of mess-ups and minor mayhem, against the backdrop of searching for a mysterious master criminal named “Omar,” Ben proves himself, all right, as a boastful chicken unable to handle even basic nuisance police calls.
With his nonstop patter and seemingly unjustified confidence, you can almost understand why James doesn’t want him for a brother-in-law. On the other hand, Hart’s so adorable you feel a little terrible when he gets bullied by bikers and a kid before he accidentally shoots a suspect.
Ice Cube plays a straight man with his usual stoic gruffness, a self-defense method his character has developed and will probably take a few sequels to shed.
In the end, no one is surprised that Ben’s video-game expertise comes in handy and that the unlikely buddies eventually bond and get the bad guy. That doesn’t take anything away from the story. While following the basic highlighter line on the buddy-movie TripTik, the director takes enough entertaining detours to keep the excursion more than interesting.
Is it “Lethal Weapon,” or even “Beverly Hills Cop?” Maybe not. On the other hand, there’s something about the movie’s klutzy hero you can’t help but root for. This Hart’s in the right place.
2½ stars (Out of four)
Starring: Kevin Hart, Ice Cube, Tika Sumpter, Bruce McGill
Director: Tim Story
Running time: 100 minutes
Rating: PG-13 for violence, sexual dialogue.
The Lowdown: A wannabe police officer rides along with his girlfriend’s cop brother to prove he’s worthy of being the woman’s husband.