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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After Dark Films
It seems a bit odd to take on a movie review of Courtney Solomon's Getaway, as only in the loosest terms is Getaway actually a movie. We begin without questions — other than a vague and frustrating "What the hell is going on?" — and end without answers, watching Ethan Hawke drive his car into things (and people) for the hour and a half in between. We learn very little along the way, probed to engage in the mystery of the journey. But we don't, because there's no reason to.
There's not a single reason to wonder about any of the things that happen to Hawke's former racecar driver/reformed criminal — forced to carry out a series of felonious commands by a mysterious stranger who is holding his wife hostage — because there doesn't seem to be a single ounce of thought poured into him beyond what he see. We learn, via exposition delivered by him to gun-toting computer whiz Selena Gomez, that he "did some bad things" before meeting the love of his life and deciding to put that all behind him. Then, we stop learning. We stop thinking. We start crashing into police cars and Christmas trees and power plants.
Why is Selena Gomez along for the ride? Well, the beginnings of her involvement are defensible: Hawke is carrying out his slew of vehicular crimes in a stolen car. It's her car. And she's on a rampage to get it back. But unaware of what she's getting herself into, Gomez confronts an idling Hawke with a gun, is yanked into the automobile, and forced to sit shotgun while the rest of the driver's "assignments" are carried out. But her willingness to stick by Hawke after hearing his story is ludicrous. Their immediate bickering falls closer to catty sexual tension than it does to genuine derision and fear (you know, the sort of feelings you'd have for someone who held you up or forced you into accessorizing a buffet of life-threatening crimes).
After Dark Films
The "gradual" reversal of their relationship is treated like something we should root for. But with so little meat packed into either character, the interwoven scenes of Hawke and Gomez warming up to each other and becoming a team in the quest to save the former's wife serve more than anything else as a breather from all the grotesque, impatient, deliberately unappealing scenes of city wreckage.
And as far as consolidating the mystery, the film isn't interested in that either, as evidenced by its final moments. Instead of pressing focus on the answers to whatever questions we may have, the movie's ultimate reveal is so weak, unsubstantial, and entirely disconnected to the story entirely, that it seems almost offensive to whatever semblance of a film might exist here to go out on this note. Offensive to the idea of film and story in general, as a matter of fact. But Getaway isn't concerned with these notions. Not with story, character, logic, or humanity. It just wants to show us a bunch of car crashes and explosions. So you'd think it might have at least made those look a little better.
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There's no question that superheroes are a lucrative bunch. From Spider-Man to The Dark Knight, crime-fighters on the big screen often translate to big bucks at the box office. But how much does it actually cost to be a superhero? To celebrate Superhero Week — and May 4's all-star blockbuster The Avengers — Hollywood.com delves into the sustainability of our favorite heroes' super extracurricular activities. Would they have the funds — and good health — to keep up with their secret lifestyles? To kick off the week, we break down Sam Raimi's 2002 smash hit Spider-Man and discover that along with great responsibility, great power can also come with some great debt.
Name: Peter Parker
Superhero Alias: Spider-Man
Occupation: High school student/freelance photographer
Income: Fluctuates. While Peter (Tobey Maguire) presumably earned no allowance from Aunt May (Rosemary Harris) and Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson) for household chores and earned a measly $100 for that amateur wrestling tournament (he lost $2900-slash-Uncle Ben's life in the process), his surprisingly lucrative freelancing gig at the Daily Bugle ($300 per photo or roughly $2100 per week) found him making around $5600 in total that month. Not bad for an 18-year-old.
Rent: Scott free! Lived modestly with Uncle Ben and Aunt May in Queens and then presumably lived rent-free thanks in a sweet SoHo loft with Harry Osborne (James Franco.) Rooming with the trust fund baby of an evil scientist has its perks!
Costume: His homemade wrestling outfit featured Spidey-inspired Nikes for $150, a red mask (around $15 on eBay), and your run of-the-mall Hanes male sweatpants and sweatshirt totaling $28.50, bringing his outfit to roughly $193. (A big hit, considering he only won $100 at that botched wrestling match.) As for his professional Spider-Man duds, a trip to Mood for 6 yards of red solid mesh would send him back $72. Tim Gunn would have been so proud. In total, Spidey spent about $265 on his costume/disguise.
Weapons: Again, totally free! This virtually ammo-free superhero is perhaps the most resourceful one, using only the weapons at his disposal, like his slinging spiderwebs. Take that, Batman.
Gadgets: To keep up that freelancing gig (which his editor J. Jonah Jameson wrongfully refers to as "the best thing in the world for a kid your age"), Spidey used a camera like this $429 Nikon.
Damages: While most of the damage caused to the city of New York was actually caused by the Green Goblin's destructive path, Peter broke a lamp at his Aunt and Uncle's house. That's coming out of your allowance, young man! Oh wait...
Transportation: Aside from the occasional subway ride when he's Peter Parker instead of Spider-Man, the hero gets around the city by climbing walls and jumping from building to building. Hey, those Metrocards are pricey.
Risks: Scads! Considering there's no health insurance in being a superhero (or a freelancer for that matter), Spider-Man was taking some big risks with his life considering what a physical and emotional toll the job takes. Peter/Spidey never went to the hospital, despite getting bit by a poisonous spider, jumping into a burning building, hitting the side of a building at full force after a failed swing, cutting his arm while trying to hide from Norman Osborne (Willem Dafoe), and a variety of other ER-worthy incidents. Factor in a tragic backstory and an isolating future, and he should have definitely invested in some therapy.
Perks: Sure, there's no health insurance. But Spidey's heightened senses means no more glasses, saving him roughly $400 in glasses/contacts/eye exams, and an enviable physique, which means he can cancel his gym membership, around $800 a year in NYC.
Entertainment/Other: Offers to take his unrequited love Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) out for $7.84 cheeseburger. (She declines!)
Sustainability: Not great. Between constantly having to change your identity and location (rooming with a guy whose dad you killed will put you back on Craigslist in no time), butting heads with/running from the authority, denying yourself fulfilling personal relationships in the already isolating Manhattan, and living off a freelancers wage can only last so long.
Final calculation: Peter Parker/Spidey saved/earned roughly $6,113.84. Again, not terrible for a youngster with incredible power at his disposal, but none of that money got his Uncle Ben back or Mary Jane in his arms.
[Photo credit: Columbia Pictures]