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posted: 1/16/2014 5:45 AM

'Ride Along' fueled by verbal, visual clichés

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  • Atlanta cop James (Ice Cube) right, tests Ben (Kevin Hart) with a taste of his police shift in the cliched action comedy "Ride Along."

      Atlanta cop James (Ice Cube) right, tests Ben (Kevin Hart) with a taste of his police shift in the cliched action comedy "Ride Along."

  • Video: "Ride Along" trailer

 
 

The generic cop/buddy action comedy "Ride Along" rides along on Ice Cube's fixed scowl, Kevin Hart's broken attention span and Phil Hay's murdered screenplay, knocked off by a fatal volley of verbal and visual clichés.

Take the standard brain-dead action movie scene where Atlanta cop James (Cube) faces off with uber-villain Omar (Laurence Fishburne) who has a gun trained on him as he holds the cop's sister Angela (Tika Sumpter) hostage. Omar tells James to drop his gun or he'll kill Sis.

Why not just pull the trigger?

Please don't think that by relating this scene, I've ruined the movie for you.

This movie ruins itself in practically every scene with some of the dumbest, done-to-death devices known to the genre.

"I will NOT get in the back seat!" Ben (Hart) says to James.

Next shot: Ben is riding in the back seat of James' car!

Gee, didn't see that one coming, did we?

Hart's Ben works as a security guard at an Atlanta high school where he uses his motorized verbal skills to persuade a black student to avoid hanging out with bad elements. So, Ben has a good Hart. But then he interrupts a cafeteria squabble by telling a white student, "You're white! White! You don't fight!" (Is this intended to play on some vague racist stereotype about namby-pamby white kids?)

Ben loves James' sister Angela. But he also loves video games almost as much.

He wants to be a cop on the Atlanta P.D. So when he's accepted into the police training academy, James concocts his own test of manhood guaranteed to prove the immature Ben to be unworthy of his sister.

James takes Ben on a ride along for his shift, only James rigs the calls so that he and Ben will be sent on the "26s," cop code for crazy people in nutty situations. Apparently, Atlanta P.D. doesn't worry about liability issues when it comes to sending civilians along with cops on potentially dangerous calls.

Just when Ben realizes that James has set up a day of bogus calls, the two by accident (actually, by necessity for the screenwriter) come across clues to a shipment of contraband by the mysterious, unseen Omar.

"Ride Along" begins with a shootout and car chase action sequence undermined first by ineptly utilized slow motion shots that blunt the narrative momentum, then second by confusing flash edits cut so quick, you can't always tell who's shooting at whom and where everyone actually is in relation to everyone else.

Then, "Ride Along" never improves.

The cute Sumpter doesn't do much to expand Angela's character beyond its limited range. Angela's job is to mostly stand around as the proprietary prize to be fought over by her lover and her brother.

Wait! Why is John Leguizamo stuck in a dinky, seemingly superfluous role as one of Atlanta's police detectives? (Regular readers of this column will recognize another overused Hollywood cliché: putting name actors in innocuous roles that turn out to be more than let on.)

Cube and Hart create a few welcome comic sparks with their contrasting personalities in a couple of well-played confrontations.

Yet, even their amusing, testy interchanges become victims of Story's ride-along, a hackneyed Hollywood vehicle that continually runs out of fuel.

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