Ride Along, directed by Tim Story of Fantastic Four and Barbershop fame seems to be a recycled version of several other police partner comedy franchises, including 48 Hours, Rush Hour, Lethal Weapon and – noticeably – Bad Boys. There is something delightful about watching a slam dunk – it’s purposeful, visually appealing and does more than score a couple of points: it makes a statement. By contrast, a lay-up is sober, satisfying and gets the job done in a workmanlike, yet somewhat nondescript manner. Ride Along appears to be closer to the latter style of entertainment.
It’s not that Tim Story’s Ride Along hasn’t got the right ingredients to make a successful cop comedy franchise. As a director, he has worked with the film’s stars, Ice Cube and Kevin Hart, on unrelated – yet highly successful – films. His association with Ice Cube goes back to 2002, when Story directed the multi-platinum hip-hop artist in Barbershop. He has also enjoyed recent success working with Hart, in the 2012 ensemble romantic comedy Think Like A Man. Ride Along also gets its female lead, Tika Sumpter, from the cast of Think Like A Man. While it isn’t uncommon for a director to choose from his most successful stars (whose films, together, have grossed nearly $180 million at the box office) it’s easy to imagine Martin Lawrence slipping into Hart’s character. In an interview with A.V. Club, Kevin Hart clearly states the intention to create a Ride Along franchise that mirrors the success of Bad Boys. In a video interview, director Tim Story has also hinted at the possibility of a sequel, while confirming the sequel to Think Like A Man later this year.
Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, and the transient memory of an entertainment-hungry audience may even be impetus to float Ride Along. The film attempts to inject an element of comic premise by having Kevin Hart’s character, Ben Barber, need to prove himself worthy of marrying the sister of tough-talking detective James Payton (Ice Cube). However, this comedic blueprint seems to stay the course of a standard cop comedy by combining the awkwardness and tension of the plot with the trust issues between the two protagonists – just like every other film of the genre. Then, there’s the racial question – the question of why the cast of the film is predominantly African-American. Ice Cube had this to say: “We didn’t do Ride Along to do a huge black movie. We did it to make a movie that appealed to everyone.” Despite the similarities, the film succeeds in paying homage to the genre and to the franchises it seems to imitate.
As a director, Tim Story has the technical chops to pull off a Ride Along without taking too much flak from an adult audience, who have waited for the first slapstick release of 2014. Ice Cube is a veteran actor, whose filmography can only be embellished by the film, while Kevin Hart brings the hilarity from the world of stand-up comedy to the big screen. This may be a powerful positive for a movie like Ride Along that appears to retell the story of several American police comedy films across the last three decades.
By Grace Stephen