Kevin Hart is a, or maybe the, divisive comedian. If you like Kevin Hart, you will probably always like him. If you hate Kevin Hart, that feeling will never change. This isn’t helped by the universally accepted fact that he plays himself in every movie that he has ever appeared in. His fans will admit it: that’s what they like about him. Clearly, most major film critics are not Kevin Hart fans, evident from the poor reviews that every single one of his films has gotten. I usually like Kevin Hart. He’s more tolerable when he’s featured in 2 movies a year and not 6, but he’s always a shot of energy to anything he’s in. This makes my least favorite Kevin Hart films the ones that take themselves too seriously and can’t craft a script or supporting cast that match his energy. This makes Ride Along one of my least favorite Kevin Hart movies.
Maybe calling this a Kevin Hart movie is giving it unfair expectations. The first credited cast member is Ice Cube. Ice Cube is a very serious man, devoid of any charisma. His trademark is his scowl. His role in Ride Along is trying to make Kevin Hart less fun and enthusiastic. It’s a buddy cop movie, so yes, there has to be a straight man for the fun one to play off of. But Cube spends basically the entire run time insulting Hart. He bullies him for being small, in jokes that I found too mean to enjoy.
It would be unfair to say that the film is without laughs. It’s just that all of the laughs are spread between a couple of scenes, and all of them are carried by Hart. The two that stood out to me were at a gun range, where Hart fires a gun for the first time, and a bit near the end where Hart impersonates the crime lord Omar. In brig scenes, Hart goes crazy, and he’s ridiculous enough for the deadpan around him to work.
The plot was obviously pushed to the back by the writers, who cared far more about jokes. It’s a recycled buddy cop story, where a grizzled veteran cop messes with a younger cop, only for one of the situations to get serious and force the young cop to prove his worth by saving the old professional. It adds a rom-com appeal by being built around a marriage blessing, which doesn’t come into play until the very end. The plot is predictable, but not unemployable, until that very end. Ride Along has a climax. It’s a big action scene at a time where the movie could end and nobody would complain. And then it keeps going for another 20 minutes. This time doesn’t add much of anything. There aren’t any great jokes, the action is bland, and Ice Cube doesn’t really come around to like Hart, giving his blessing and immediately walking out.
I like Kevin Hart too much to hate anything he’s in, and the script isn’t the worst he’s ever chosen, but it refuses to play to his strength. If you like Ice Cube and Kevin Hart, you’ll love this because it’s nothing new, but for most people “nothing new” is a negative, especially for a comedy.