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.
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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!
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S10E4: Onward we march, getting closer and closer to Hollywood week (and oh how exhausted we’ll be when we finally get there). Last night, Idol made its stop in Nashville, Tennessee, the home of country music and what should have been a veritable treasure trove of talent. There were a few choice singers plucked from the crowd, but it seemed like the bad rang out a bit louder than the good in this round.
“Do you do voiceovers for cartoons?” –Randy
“I don’t know.” –Contestant
To be brutally honest, there wasn’t much that the first contestant, Christine McAfee did know. Not only did she have the most annoying voice EVER, but she was completely delusional. After an attempt at singing that would have actually been improved with accompaniment from a two-year-old with a pot, a ladle, and a sugar high, she had the balls to tell Ryan that Steven had voted “Yes” for her. Nope, not even close. She was either faking it or she was one of those kids whose parents threw parties every time they brought home that crappy little “Participant” ribbon from the school-wide mini-Olympics to the point that she thinks rainbows shoot out of her fanny. Jennifer may have thought Randy was too harsh, but someone needed to say it.
There were others in a montage of bad singers, but to be honest, they were so plain and uninteresting they’re not even worth mentioning. Seriously.
“Sometimes the deepest passion comes from friction.” – Steven
Yes, Idol can be cruel, but sometimes it can be downright diabolical, like in this episode where they forced two exes to audition together. Chelsea Oaks and Rob Bolin used to date and sing together and live together, but they’re not friends anymore. Clearly, this means they should do something as stressful as auditioning for American Idol together. CLEARLY. In truth they do sing very well together, and they both have great voices on their own, but what the hell, Idol? Of course, despite the fact that Chelsea’s boyfriend was just outside of the audition room, the judges continued to awkwardly push the idea that putting these two songbirds in the competition will make them fall back in love. What about the poor boyfriend, JLo? WHAT ABOUT HIM?
“We’re warriors, man.” –Contestant
Now, here are two people who weren’t terrible but don’t belong in this competition. One of them was sent home, and the one with boobs got a ticket to Hollywood.
First was Allen Lewis, who sounded like Scott Stapp or Rob Thomas and looked like a biker who was ready to fuck shit up. Somehow, when they rejected him, Lewis did not go after Steven Tyler with a sharpened pool cue as most of us who were judging him based on his wardrobe like the superficial idiots we are had assumed; he simply said even the best musicians blow auditions and that he would try harder next time. What? No funny business…at all? Did he get a hold of whatever medication was keeping Steven from acting like a crazy person all episode?
Next, we heard Miss Teen USA 2009, Stormi Henly, attempt to wow the judges with her talents. She could carry a tune, but as Steven pointed out (yes, he’s my favorite; accept it and move on) her voice was tight, little and squeaky. Jennifer rightly voted “no,” but the other two idiots sent her through to Hollywood because she’s hot. This is worse than putting a girl through for her skilled water works display; at least that required work instead of just magically receiving a disproportionate amount of God’s gifts.
“You made me cry and I don’t even know why.” –Steven
Despite a bunch of mediocre and downright awful singers, there were a few fruits from the judges’ labors. Adrienne Beasley told her story about growing up as a black girl with white parents, and while these little videos are usually overdrawn and melodramatic, she struck me as truly genuine; plus, when she sang her voice was truly moving. I agree with Steven again. Imagine that. (This is starting to worry me.)
Jackie Wilson was also one of the good ones, belting out a tune with skill and talent and hearkening back to Kelly Clarkson. She was by no means mind-blowing, but after the first half of the show, it was nice to see that they could find someone worthy of a ticket to Hollywood. Obviously, I’m happy for Jackie, but did anyone else’s jaw drop when she kissed her boyfriend (who I thought was her DAD until that moment). Thanks for the jarring addition of the record-skipping sound too, Idol; I wasn’t shocked enough as it was.
“You know, the acoustics work no matter what.” – JLo
Alright, before we round out the evening with the last few good singers, let’s round up the awful ones. First we had Kameela Merricks trying desperately to sing “Satisfy You” but it was so bad that I don’t know if I can ever listen to that song again. My ears are scarred…and scared. It was just plain awful, but the girl was sweet so Steven tried to play the Paula and be nice. He told her to work harder, but Randy came storming through and told her she should quit. It looks like someone is trying way too hard to be the new Simon. It’s not going to happen; just be yourself, dawg.
We also saw flashes of a girl sacrificing “I Will Survive” to the tone-deaf gods and a dude in a head-to-toe (and face too) blue body suit. Yep. No idea what that was about; we could even see his face, so how would he prove to his friends that he was even on the show? Moving on.
Latoya Moore insisted that she’s a “recording artist,” donned a floor length sapphire evening gown and brought a single copy of her “album” for THREE judges to share. Clearly, this girl is an idiot or as Steven put it so politely, “Definitely unique.” Of course, when she opened her mouth, she was loud, annoying, and completely awful. Randy imitated her which is like sticking your tongue out at that toddler sitting next to you at Starbucks on a Saturday morning – it just encourages them. Latoya continued singing as she left the audition, hovering in the wings of the stage like a phantom of screechy music before walking out and telling Ryan that she just needed to sing slower in order to get that ticket to Hollywood. And we’ve got delusional looney number two.
“See, I think you should cry because you’re going to make 40 million people cry…tears of joy.” –Steven
After sending through three good guys who merited only 30 seconds of airtime altogether, the judges found the most surprising contestant of the day. Matt Dillard dresses like a guy on a cartoon farm, but sings like an angel. After lending his voice to a Josh Groban song, he only merited two yeses from the judges, but got the chance to prove he can do better in Hollywood.
And last, but not least, they saved the sob story for the final contestant…again. This felt like a condensed version of yesterday’s audition show, does it not? Even so, 15 year old Lauren Alaina’s story was touching. She looks up to her cousin, Holly, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor and she’s doing Idol as a tribute. To boot, Alaina’s got lots of personality and a serious set of pipes. I’m getting a little tired of Idol always finding a way to end the show with someone with family problems, but I’ll admit it was cute watching her family smile and file into the room as she got to sing an Aerosmith song with Steven. Say what you will about the man, but he’s really good at making people feel special. See? He IS the new Paula.
Now go, enjoy your freedom before the next round of sharp, obnoxious, screeching, terrifying auditions is before us. Six days should be enough time for your ears to recover from this week’s onslaught.