First things first, let's tackle the obvious. Yes, you know exactly what this movie is. You know the dynamic. You likely know what kinds of twists it will take. You can also probably accurately predict the way it all turns out. The question, when it comes to a movie that wears its Hollywood formula so blatantly on its sleeve, is whether or not it brings anything new to the table, or if it at least is able to teach some new tricks to an old dog. The answer to that question, when it comes to Ride Along, is a resounding "No." However, that doesn't mean that there isn't some fun to be had here.
Ride Along is a buddy-cop action comedy, in the tradition 48 Hours, Rush Hour, and Lethal Weapon. You know the routine: Two unlikely characters have to join forces, one is a gruff no-nonsense type, the other is a wacky, loud-mouthed maniac. They start off with a rocky relationship, then as they work together on a big case, they eventually develop a brotherhood, crack the case, and beat the big bad guy. Along the way hijinx ensue. The stand-ins for this particular iteration of that story are Ice Cube's James and Kevin Hart's Ben. Ben is a hopeful police academy cadet that wants to marry James's sister, so he agrees to do a "ride-along" with James- who's a detective- to show him that he's good enough to be trusted with his sister.
From that setup, we hit the ground running. The whole film, to its credit, is very briskly paced. It moves from place to place, never over-staying its welcome, and it uses this rapid-fire storytelling to make sure you don't have time to think about how "been there, done that" a lot of it is. It uses its copious amounts of jokes, and outlandish scenarios to keep you hooked as it flows from scene to scene. The film relies on the chemistry of its leads to carry it through, and Hart and Cube bring the goods. Hart can be a polarizing comedian but it's safe to say that if you like his brand of humor, then you'll enjoy what he brings to this movie.
The small supporting cast features reliable performances from veterans like John Leguizamo and Bruce McGill. While on the subject of McGill, though, I couldn't help but find it unintentionally humorous to see Ice Cube engaged in scenes with his loudmouthed Lt. Brooks- considering Cube recently lampooned that exact type of character in 21 Jump Street. In fact, Cube's involvement in Jump Street actually hurt the movie for me because it served as a constant reminder that he was just in a film that successfully pointed out how played-out these kinds of movies are. It'd almost be like seeing Marlon Wayans in a legit horror movie nowadays.
All that said, there were several big laughs scattered throughout the movie. For every three or four obvious jokes (yes, we get it, Hollywood. Prius's are wimpy!), there's a genuine belly laugh. There was one big surprise towards the end, which broke things up a bit, put Hart's skills on full display, and powered the story through to its conclusion. Though it was more a surprise because of how nonsensical it was than because of the ingenuity of the writing. Overall, the movie relies on its softball nature to make sure you don't read too much into some of its completely unrealistic plot elements.
With Ride Along you know exactly what you're going to get. It's lightweight, and forgettable, but fun while it lasts. If you're a fan of films like Rush Hour and Bad Boys, then you'll likely get a kick out of this. Just don't go in looking for anything with the grit of the films that inspired those. It doesn't take itself too seriously, and neither should you.