‘Ride Along’ ** 1/2
Joining the ranks of odd-couple police comedies, “Ride Along” delivers laughs over action, with loudmouthed funnyman Kevin Hart driving the hilarity.
Stepping into the role of rapper-turned-actor Ice Cube’s sidekick in this buddy-cop farce, Hart had a lot to live up to. Cube (real name O’Shea Jackson) and Chris Tucker were classic quipsters in the 1995 pot-comedy “Friday” that started it all, and when then-newcomer Mike Epps dropped in on the sequel, his chemistry with Cube led to a third film.
The formula is always the same: Cube, who is level-headed for the most part, gets into trouble with his ridiculous sidekick. “Ride Along” is no different, and that’s OK. It’s a blueprint we’ve come to rely on for nearly 20 years.
In “Ride Along,” Hart’s rapid banter comes off naturally, as if he’s always improvising. Cube’s no-nonsense approach, punctuated by his steady straight-face, offers an ideal contrast.
Ben (Hart), who has just been accepted into the Atlanta police academy, is ready to ask his girlfriend Angela (Tika Sumpter) to marry him. But first, he’s determined to get the approval of her older brother, James (Cube), an Atlanta police officer. In order to prove he’s worthy of asking for Angela’s hand, Ben must accompany James on a 24-hour patrol of Atlanta.
Unfortunately, Ben doesn’t do a great job of being tough or discrete.
When James requests a day of “Code 126” cases, police lingo for an annoying situation, Ben is put to the test as he attempts to get a crew of loitering bikers away from a storefront and put a drunken grocery store customer in custody.
Though primarily a flunky in any physical task, Ben uncovers a number of clues throughout the day, helping James with his hunt for the ruthless and allusive Atlanta kingpin Omar.
After fellow officers (played by John Leguizamo and Bryan Callen) set up James during a supposed bust, Ben comes to his rescue, which wins him big points with James.
This predictable “Training Day”-goes-slapstick romp, directed by Tim Story (“Think Like a Man”), is far from innovative and reaches an “oh, lord” level when Cube says a few of his signature lyrics, including “Today was a good day” from his 1992 album “The Predator.” But since the whole film is full of camp – down to James’ black muscle car and the police captain who won’t get off his back – moments like these don’t feel out of place and Cube and Hart are a welcomed new pair.