January 21, 2014
By Bob Garver
In 2011, the MTV Video Music Awards had no official host. The opening monologue was performed by Kevin Hart, who also did other comedy segments throughout the night. Hart was clearly acting as the host, so why wasn’t he advertised as such? I don’t think it was because they thought Hart wouldn’t bring in viewers (he had a fanbase even back then) or that they thought people would avoid the show because of him. I think they were thinking that viewers were going to tune in, not like Hart, and change the channel rather than see more of him. In other words, they sacrificed a built-in Kevin Hart audience in favor of tricking people into thinking that he wouldn’t be on the show that much.
Cut to three years later and Kevin Hart is definitely being advertised as the lead in “Ride Along,” a buddy-cop movie costarring Ice Cube. The movie made over $40 million in its first weekend, a January record. So MTV made a mistake because Hart brings people to the show, right? Maybe. But keep in mind that with “Ride Along,” Hart undeniably got people to purchase a movie ticket that can’t be easily refunded. MTV, meanwhile, needed to keep people from changing the channel. And there were several points during “Ride Along” when I wish I could have changed the channel on Hart.
The film follows bumbling prospective cop Hart as he spends the day tagging along with hardened veteran cop Cube. Hart wants Cube’s blessing to marry his sister (Tika Sumpter) and Cube doesn’t believe that Hart is fit to be an officer, provider, protector, and especially a husband, Cube gives Hart the day to prove his competence as a cop. This is a flawed premise because Hart has not yet received training and cannot reasonably be expected to function as a cop. Maybe the idea could work if Hart was just coming out of the academy and only knew the job in theory or if he had gone through training and then settled into an unchallenging job, but no, the movie decides to have the Hart character be dangerously unprepared.
But a movie like this doesn’t want you to put too much stock in the setup, it wants you to put your stock in the gags. This too is a bad idea because the humor in this film is even worse than the setup, which ironically is a joke. The humor can be broken down into 5% Ice Cube (who can actually be funny at times), 5% violence, and 90% Kevin Hart being an idiot. The man never knows what he’s talking about and is never at a loss for words, a dangerous combination in comedy. I can see where he’s good at standup, where the ability talk at length is endearing, even essential. But for him to carry a movie and never shut up is just painful. This is not to say that the story-driving plot about a crime ring with an unknown boss is particularly captivating, but at least getting through it without Hart’s constant yammering would mean the movie would end sooner.
The violence isn’t that funny either, but then again I’m not sure it was supposed to be. It isn’t always done with the wit, timing or presence of physical comedy. Maybe it was supposed to be played straight or maybe it was just another type of gag that fell flat. The audience at my screening cheered and laughed at it a lot, though. Maybe they were just thrilled that the explosions and gunfire were preventing Kevin Hart from his being annoying. “Ride Along” is an unfunny comedy that makes for an unimpressive Kevin Hart vehicle.
One and Half Stars out of Five.
“Ride Along” is rated PG-13 for sequences of violence, sexual content and brief strong language. Its running time is 100 minutes.
Contact Bob Garver at email@example.com.