by Callum Petch
Last things first, this should not be a 12a. Now, I’m not one of those prudes who believes that the absolute worst thing a young, impressionable child can be introduced is fictional sex and violence or accidentally muttering one of The Seven Words You Do Not Say Around Children. I haven’t turned into an overzealous moral guardian on you overnight. What I am a proponent of, however, is a rating system that is consistent in its ratings. And, presumably through bribery or the dark arts, Ride Along has slid through the BBFC with a 12a rating it doesn’t deserve. This is a 15 rated comedy in a 12a body.
Why? Well, “sh*t” is tossed around more often than an angry gorilla at a zoo, despite the promise of only one use of strong language, I counted at least two or three usages of the word “f*ck”, “n*gger” is swapped between characters every now and again, there are a tonne of sex references and jokes about sex that would a) make a dork age DreamWorks Animation blush and b) will likely go right over the heads of most younger audience members anyway, and there are several moments of black comedy that would have fit more into 21 Jump Street than, say, a film that apparently deserves the same rating as Pitch Perfect. Anchorman 2 was rated 15 and Ride Along is about that level.
Now, admittedly, the kind of humour that Ride Along traffics in will seem like the funniest thing in the world to 12 year olds and above and that’s fine. What’s not fine is that I know that there will be parents out there who will see that 12a rating and decide that that means it’s OK to bring their 8 year-olds to the cinema with them because, “Hey, Glee is rated 12! The Amazing Spider-Man is rated 12a! This can’t be any worse than that, right?” only to regret their decision by, at the very latest, the 10 minute mark. Again, I’m not one of those people who constantly screams “WON’T SOMEBODY PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN?” but I am somebody who likes the BBFC to be consistent in the ratings they give out because there will be people who will ignore what the content of the movie looks like and will just look at the rating before deciding that “it MUST be fine for my kids to go and see it with me because Thor: The Dark World was also a 12a!” So, to reiterate, this film should not be a 12a. It should be a 15.
Now, you may be wondering why I made such a big thing out of that and, no, “being rigidly loyal to my principles” is not it this time. It’s mainly because there’s not too much to say about Ride Along. It’s a pretty good action-comedy. Admittedly, we don’t get too many of those (and I can count the number of good to great comedies that were released last year on one hand) but that’s kinda all it is. Pretty good. Decent. OK. Disposable. There are some really funny jokes that were shown in the trailer. One or two other really funny jokes that weren’t shown in the trailer. A lot of chucklesome jokes. Some very bad jokes. There’s a bit where Ice Cube drops the name of one of his most famous songs as a punch line and I audibly groaned out loud. In short: it’s alright. Not a bad way to spend 100 minutes, perhaps at whatever our equivalent of a matinee showing is, and you will have forgotten most of it 24 hours after you’ve exited the cinema.
Nevertheless, I have to go into more detail. So, our story revolves around Kevin Hart and Ice Cube (their characters do have names but I’m writing this nearly 48 hours after having seen the film so forgive me for not remembering their characters’ names and choosing not to look them up for both comedic effect and an accurate representation of what your brain will remember about this film 48 hours removed from it). Ice Cube is a tough, no-nonsense detective for the Atlanta PD who breaks the rules but, dammit, he gets results! Kevin Hart is a videogame-loving high school security guard who dreams of becoming a police officer and is in a relationship with Ice Cube’s sister (played by Tika Sumpter, not actually Ice Cube’s sister). Ice Cube’s sister wants Ice Cube to bless Kevin Hart’s marriage proposal to her, because she’s old school like that, and he agrees to if Kevin Hart can survive a day’s ride along with Ice Cube.
What happens next you can probably already figure out. Ice Cube purposefully sets up a crappy day full of pranks at Kevin Hart’s expense in order to scare him away from the police academy and his sister. There’s lots of physical comedy at Kevin Hart’s expense. There’s the moment where the ruse is figured out. The point where it starts getting too real. The part where Kevin Hart and Ice Cube actually start bonding. And there’s also the part where Ice Cube’s determined trail of an elusive arms dealer named Omar comes to a head at the worst possible time. The plot for Ride Along almost literally could not be more by-the-numbers. It’s like it was constructed by the film’s writers actually following an instruction book. The mystery, in particular, entirely lacks mystery or plot turns. Nobody has ever seen Omar before, Kevin Hart stumbles onto some clues, they find out where a deal is going down and then Laurence Fishburne turns up to chew some scenery. That’s not particularly a spoiler, mind, his name comes up at the end of the cast list during the opening credits to allow anybody with a working brain to figure it out and for everyone else to figure it out after the 900th time somebody says that “nobody’s ever seen this guy before”.
But, eh. Nobody’s really expecting Ride Along to set the world on fire with its plotting, and that’s fine. We’re here for the jokes. So, did I laugh? Yeah, I did. A fair bit. As mentioned a bit further back, there are some very funny jokes, some very bad jokes, some chuckle-worthy jokes and then some jokes that inspired no reaction either way. Although refreshingly free of gay-panic type jokes (as much as I loved 21 Jump Street, I really hope the sequel tones down the number of “ha! Gay stuff, amirightlads?” jokes), the film makes up for that slack in regards to Kevin Hart’s obsession with videogames. If you’re currently imagining a lot of jokes about Kevin Hart taking games too seriously, being overly cocky with real guns on a firing range, Ice Cube derisively shouting “This ain’t no damn videogame!” or variations of such in his direction a lot and for his love of videogames to come into play in a positive way in the finale… congratulations! You too could have written anywhere between 25% – 35% of Ride Along’s screenplay! Some of the jokes are pretty funny, to be fair, but it’s a button and a well that the film goes back to too often.
Much better are the times when Kevin Hart is bumbling his way through scenarios that Ice Cube has set-up for him. In fact, I’m just going to get this out of the way now: Kevin Hart is the main reason to see this film. He’s been America’s best-kept secret for a long while now (he’s pretty much conquered America with his stand-up over the past half-decade) and Ride Along seems to announce him to the rest of the world as a great comic talent in film in the making. Sometimes he does go just a little bit too over-the-top (the bit from the trailer where he knocks himself out is not funnier in context), but his manic energy and total commitment to making any material thrown his way work is the film’s ace-in-the-hole. There’s a section around the film’s midpoint (a.k.a. The Sequence Where It Starts Getting Real) that is made hilarious because Hart is flinging himself around the scene, exuding charisma and playing every line at the perfect pitch so that, when it does come time for him to start panicking, his ratcheting up to 11 hits that much harder.
Ice Cube doesn’t fare as well, his delivery is much less consistent and is prone to under or over-performing, but he does strike up a good chemistry with Hart that keeps the film trucking along. If Hart’s thing is to comically overreact to everything, Ice Cube’s is to be comically angry at all times and, unlike Hart, he’s not able to either deliver the jokes well enough or to find enough spins on that trait to make it work. There are points where he reaches the quality that he displayed in 21 Jump Street, but they’re fleeting. Of the supporting cast, Laurence Fishbourne is the stand-out in that he’s the only one who makes a lasting impression but, man! You know that one bit in Hannibal where he shouts “USE THE LADIES’ ROOM!” at another FBI agent entering the toilets? Take out the serious tone of Hannibal and that’s pretty much how Laurence Fishbourne plays the villain role here. It’s pretty funny, just putting that out there.
And… yeah, that’s pretty much all I have to say about Ride Along. There’s really not a lot going on here. It’s a pretty funny comedy where the best jokes have predominately been shown in the trailer but there are enough funny moments in the rest of the film to justify giving it a watch if you’re desperate for a decent comedy or if you’ve already seen everything else that’s great out. You won’t remember any of it 72 hours after seeing it, but you will laugh. I laughed. I laughed a fair bit, and that’s what I wanted at the time I saw it so I’m willing to give it a pass. Just don’t take your 8 year-old to see it. Not unless you want to have them dropping “sh*t” around the house like it’s going out of style.
Callum Petch follows me with his good friend, the threat of poverty. Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!