If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That’s clearly the mentality that the writers of Ride Along brought to the table. And I can’t blame them, given the tremendous success that buddy comedies have found in Hollywood, particularly in recent years with action-heavy team-up comedies like 21 Jump Street and 2 Guns. Luckily, there’s more to Ride Along than just a rehash of those hits.
The main draw for most will be watching Ice Cube and Kevin Hart, two talented actors with supremely different personalities, share the screen. Cube, physically imposing and still radiating the same fierce anger that made his rapping work so iconic, fits perfectly into the role of Alabama PD Detective James Payton, a tough-as-nails cop who relishes the chance to break protocol and kick in some heads.
Similarly, Hart, famed for his manic energy and underdog rep, is well-suited for the part of Ben Barber, a lowly high school security guard dating James’s sister Angela (Tika Sumpter) while nursing dreams of attending the police academy. When James invites Ben to join him for one day in the life of a cop, aiming to show Ben that someone of his small stature (physically, yes, but mainly in masculinity) doesn’t deserve to marry his sister, the two wind up on the trail of a crime kingpin.
Nothing about what James and Ben experience throughout their day is shocking in the slightest. There’s police corruption, double-crosses, gunfights, car chases – all the hallmarks of a cop movie. What makes Ride Along bearable, then, is less its plot than the lively banter between its leads, in which they call attention to and occasionally even subvert the very tropes they’re utilizing. Hart’s endless energy and Cube’s stoic machismo actually complement each other quite nicely, which allows Ride Along to flow easily from scene to scene without becoming tiresome. There are far worse things in Hollywood than a breezy time-waster.
Ride Along is Cube and Hart’s show, through and through, but director Tim Story (Fantastic Four) also provides a handy reminder for studio execs that he can still put together strong, lively action sequences, even with stuff like Think Like A Man on his resume.
In supporting roles, Laurence Fishburne chews the scenery with elegance, though I’ll keep the nature of his role a surprise for viewers, and John Leguizamo and Bryan Callen do a believable job as snotty crooked cops, despite feeling more like collections of cliches than fully-formed characters. Unfortunately, Sumpter walks around in various stages of undress without ever leaving much of an impression at all. Of course, her damsel-in-distress part doesn’t call for much of one, so I can’t really fault the actress for that.
Get over Ride Along‘s more contrived plot aspects, like James’s haphazard changes of heart toward Ben, and a finale that strains credulity, and you’ll find a jaunty buddy comedy packed with enough explosions and punchlines to satisfy. In a cinematic landscape littered with much, much worse, Ride Along is harmless fun.
The Blu-Ray for Ride Along got a terrific 1080p transfer from Universal. No issues to report whatsoever with the quality – this is a colorful, eye-catching transfer with rich details and immersive depth. Flesh tones are appropriately natural, and the explosions (of which there are many) look great.
Likewise, the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio Track has perfect clarity throughout, whether it comes to crisp dialogue or sharp background effects ranging from gunshots to footsteps. I never noticed any drop in the audio, and what’s on the disc should prove to be satisfactory for viewers with home theaters or extensive surround sound.
In terms of extras, Universal absolutely loaded the Ride Along Blu-Ray, a lot of which are just for Blu-Ray. Included are:
- Audio Commentary by director Tim Story
- Alternate Ending (Blu-Ray only)
- Deleted Scenes (Blu-Ray only)
- Alternate Take (Blu-Ray only)
- Gag Reel
- It Was A Good Day: On The Set of Ride Along
- Kev and Cube’s Wild Ride (Blu-Ray only)
- You Gonna Learn Today (Blu-Ray only)
- Anatomy of The Big Blast (Blu-Ray only)
- An Explosive Ride (Blu-Ray only)
- Atlanta: The Character
The alternate ending lacks the humor of the one Story ultimately went with, so it’s easy to see why he ended up cutting it. Nothing very remarkable – just some fat the director wisely chose to trim.
The more useless deleted scenes find James meeting with a shady crook he’s setting up, Ben preparing for work, and Ben and Angela talking about James’ clear dislike for him. Better ones feature Ben and James stealing a car, some hilarious narration from Ben and a twist ending that Story may have added back in had he known for well the film would do at the box office.
The hilarious alternate take shows off Hart’s ability for R-rated ad-libbing. Fans of the comedian will be in stitches (though Story, off-camera, sounds less amused). Meanwhile, the gag reel provides some funny material, best of all Cube’s reaction to a fan incessantly derailing his attempts to shoot a scene, though it’s too short at just under three minutes.
“It Was A Good Day: On the Set of Ride Along” is the most official featurette on the disc. It spends a lot of time with various crew and cast members, all of whom have overwhelmingly positive things to say about one another. Again, we hear about how amazing Hart and Cube are, though the featurette also has some interesting points about production and how Story approached balancing his genres. Also, more jokes from Hart: “I made a mistake. I never called Laurence Fishburne by his name – I kept calling him Morpheus.”
The rest of the featurettes are brief EPK fillers, though all of them will interest fans of the movie. “Kev and Cube’s Wild Ride” is all about the dynamic between the two actors and how Story helped them to play their differing styles off one other. “You Gonna Learn Today” focuses on the improvised nature of much of the dialogue, particularly when it comes to Hart’s lines. It was either really frustrating or thrilling for Story (or, in all likelihood, a mixture of the two) to have an actor so willing to deviate from the script. “Anatomy of the Big Blast” focuses on a massive explosion late in the film; for its focus on the technical aspects of setting up such an eye-catching ball of fire, it’s probably the most interesting extra. “An Explosive Ride” is also about the action sequences, looking at the opening sequence with Cube chasing down perps in a mall and the final brawl in Ben and Angela’s apartment. Finally, “Atlanta: The Character” details both Story’s efforts to incorporate his setting’s charms into the film and the reactions that Ride Along‘s cast and crew got from locals who looked on as the film was shot.
Story is an eloquent narrator for the commentary, providing some interesting insights into production, how Ride Along went from the idea stages to an actual film (it’s been in production a lot longer than your typical comedy vehicle, for one), what he enjoyed the most about working with his actors and how he pulled off some of the harder action sequences in the film. My only criticism of his commentary is that he hits the same points a little too frequently, meaning that some stretches of his voice-over feels redundant, especially when he’s just talking about how amazing Cube and Hart were to work with.
Universal’s package for Ride Along boasts impeccable video and audio, as well as a comprehensive array of extras, so there should be nothing to stop fans of the film from picking up the Blu-Ray. As for those who haven’t yet seen Ride Along, I’d recommend it. Though it certainly doesn’t reinvent the wheel or attempt to add anything new to its genre, the terrific chemistry between Ice Cube and Kevin Hart is enough to make the film a highly amusing diversion.
From Kevin Hart and Ice Cube's great chemistry to surprisingly engrossing action and a witty script, there's a lot to like about Ride Along.