In just about every one of Kevin Hart's scenes in Ride Along, there's a joke that is just aching to find its way out of the diminutive, rascally comic actor. Hart is a small-scale physical comedian — of the same ilk as Jack Black — who puts nuclear-degree energy into his facial contortions, anatomical outbursts, and the delivery of every gag in general. If only he had material that was crafted with the same energy.
Unfortunately, nothing else about Ride Along seems at all "hard at work." Not the script, which pads a lifeless story with lazy comedy, and certainly not his screen partner Ice Cube, whose only stage direction seems to be "frown, and be taller than Kevin Hart." So lifeless is Ice Cube that even his machismo-obsessed straight man bit doesn't really work. Instead of the virile and intimidating "bad cop," he comes off as a disapproving middle aged dad without much to show for his own life.
But the script pairs the wily, overzealous high school security guard and video game junkie Ben (Hart) with no-nonsense lawman James (Ice Cube) on the titular ride along, with the scrappy cop-wannabe hoping to prove to the force veteran that he's good enough to marry the latter's younger sister. In earnest, he's not. Ben never puts any respectable effort into learning the tools of the trade, insisting on employing his amateur style and controlling the radio despite his proclamations that he wants, and deserves, James' trust. And James is no saint either — he's irresponsible on crime scenes, violent with perps, and disgruntled to the point of being unable to work with anybody else on the force. These are not good police officers... of course, you'll say, this is a comedy. But where are the laughs, then?
They're not absent entirely, you just have to look for them. In a movie so focused with big, broad humor, it's the smaller comedy that actually lands best. Hart's background mutterings and fumblings, his emoticon-laden texts to girlfriend Angela (Tika Sumpter, whose only stage direction seems to be "smile, and never wear a full outfit of clothing"), and a bizarre repetition of the word "weird" from supporting player John Leguizamo. All good for unexpected chuckles, while jokes like Hart facing off with a pre-teen or being blown backwards into a brick wall after firing a large gun are all lazy, familiar, and flat.
Structurally, the script is a mess. Ride Along spends far too much time on set up — we get it, Hart and his soon-to-be-brother-in-law Ice Cube don't get along — and far too much time on wrap-up — there's a gigantic, dramatic warehouse shootout that, in any other movie, would be the climax, but there's plenty more to go after that — without any cohesive middle to make the movie feel like... a movie.
The best player in the World for movie trailers, Hollywood interviews and movie clips.
Hart, who leaps at every comic opportunity like a kangaroo (wallaby would be more appropriate), is suited just right for a buddy cop comedy, but he needs something fresh with which to work — a real character, an interesting story, actually funny jokes. Even just one of these would be fine!
Follow @Michael Arbeiter
| Follow @Hollywood_com
UPDATE: In response to Romney's comments, PBS has released the following statement on its website: "We are very disappointed that PBS became a political target in the Presidential debate last night. Governor Romney does not understand the value the American people place on public broadcasting and the outstanding return on investment the system delivers to our nation. For more than 40 years, Big Bird has embodied the public broadcasting mission – harnessing the power of media for the good of every citizen, regardless of where they live or their ability to pay. Our system serves as a universally accessible resource for education, history, science, arts and civil discourse."
EARLIER: On Wednesday night, President Barack Obama and former Gov. Mitt Romney squared off in the first round of presidential debates, tackling some of the most important domestic issues facing our country today. Like Sesame Street.
As you might have heard, one of the declarations Romney made during the debates was his intention, as president, to discontinue government subsidy to the PBS network. Romney stated "I like PBS. I love Big Bird. I actually like you too [speaking directly to debate moderator Jim Lehrer, who serves as the anchor on PBS News Hour]. But I’m not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for it."
And although Romney claims to bear an affinity for Sesame Street's gargantuan domestic canary, there might be a very palpable enmity between the two... their policies don't exactly line up. Big Bird and a few of his fellow residents of the Manhattan neighborhood could have earned the candidate's disfavor with the vocalization of some of their own political stances.
This list of reasons that Mitt Romney wants to get rid of Big Bird and Sesame Street is brought to you by the number five.
One: Sesame Street Brings on Ralph Nader, Literally Sings the Praises of Consumer Advocacy
Romney has promised to repeal the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act if elected.
Two: Sesame Street Brings on Jesse Jackson, Who Makes Subtly Supportive Statements About Welfare Programs
Romney has opposed President Obama's plan to support states that foster effective welfare programs (the segment begins at the 17 second mark).
Three: Sesame Street Takes a Thinly Veiled Stab at Conservative News Syndicate Fox News
The joke comes in at the 8:35 mark.
Four: Sesame Street Brings on Romney's Opponent's Wife, Michelle Obama
Now it's getting personal.
Five: American Exceptionalism Vs. International Unity
In his 2010 book, No Apology: The Case for American Greatness, Romney details his perspective of American exceptionalism. In contrast to this, Sesame Street has produced episodes and musical numbers like the one below, expressing the idea of unity, harmony, camaraderie, and equality among all who live on Earth.
So could Romney really be secretly after Big Bird and his Sesame Street cohorts? ... No, probably not. But we've got to make politics interesting somehow.
[Photo Credit: ABC]
2012 Presidential Debate: Who Won: Barack Obama or Mitt Romney?
Facebook's New Slogan: Put Your Butt On It!
Pizza Vs. Burritos: The Pop Culture Election — Round 2