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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Every movie I saw in 2013, ranked from worst to best:
112. IDENTITY THIEFThe first comedy movie to not make me laugh once.
111. SAVING MR. BANKSInsulting, manipulative, dishonest, and unkind, with occasional song breaks.
110. SCARY MOVIE 5These movies have gotten much worse since we were 13.
109. GETAWAYINT. RACECAR. NIGHT. Ethan Hawke and Selena Gomez crash into stuff.
108. GROWN UPS 2So much vomiting, so many homophobic jokes, so little plot.
107. I GIVE IT A YEARAn ugly, loveless rom-com that isn't clever enough to be satire.
106. DEAD MAN DOWNAll I remember is a whole lot of dark alleyways.
105. A GLIMPSE INSIDE THE MIND OF CHARLES SWAN IIIThe best part is the closing credits (I'm not being flip, they're actually kind of fun).
104. MOVIE 43Bad offensive joke after bad offensive joke after bad offensive joke...
103. WINNIE MANDELADesperately important story turned into a desperately dull movie.
102. TWICE BORNNo summary available due to lack of anything interesting happening in this movie.
101. R.I.P.D.Somebody forgot to give Ryan Reynolds any jokes.
New Line Cinema via Everett Collection
100. THE INCREDIBLE BURT WONDERSTONEThis movie could have been funny if Wonderstone wasn't such a d**k.
99. ONLY GOD FORGIVESInteresting in the moments when it's not shoving its unpleasantness down your throat.
98. MAN OF STEELSetup: cerebral reinvention of Superman. Payoff: mass property damage.
97. CARRIEBeat-by-beat remake without any of the original's spirit.
96. THE TO DO LISTUncomfortably raunchy and mean. Thank God for Bill Hader.
95. KICK-ASS 2More Mean Girls shtick would have benefited this weak sequel.
94. PHANTOMI'm not sure this was actually a finished movie.
93. WRONGObnoxiously nonsensical, but not without its share of laughs.
92. THE SMURFS 2Mostly cloying, but Neil Patrick Harris is incurably watchable.
91. HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS Dumb.
89. NOW YOU SEE MEPossibly the worst ending in a 2013 movie, but a few bits of fun along the way.
88. WE'RE THE MILLERS[Pop culture reference]
87. RED 2John Malkovich's facial contortions save this from total failure.
86. STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS It hsa a few pros, but is mostly one giant... well, you know.
85. RIDDICKSurprisingly intriguing, when it isn't being deplorably sexist.
84. FREE BIRDSEh, turkeys are kinda funny.
83. PRISONERS Thankfully, scenes of Hugh Jackman yelling are intercut with the far superior scenes of Jake Gyllenhaal yelling.
82. WHITE REINDEER Any minute now, this movie is going to reveal its inner glory! Any minute now!
81. EVIL DEAD A better horror flick than the original! But still mostly forgettable.
80. GBFMostly charming, undone by its "safe" and "classy" ending.
79. THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALISTIt's kind of hard to get past how boring the title is.
78. DESPICABLE ME 2 Lots of minions. People like minions, right?
77. JOHN DIES AT THE END Not nearly as weird as it thinks it is or wants to be.
76. 2 GUNSHey, wait a minute, this movie is kinda funny! ... Not that funny, but kinda.
75. SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES MEI like to call this movie Click Offerman.
74. WHITE HOUSE DOWNWould be more fun if we were ready to laugh about terrorism.
73. AT ANY PRICEBoooriii— HOLY S**T WHERE THE F**K DID THAT COME FROM?!
72. BAD MILONot quite up to par with your expectations for the "Ken Marino has a demon in his butt" synopsis.
71. MONSTERS UNIVERSITYLackluster prequel, nice to look at, big band music.
70. THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: CITY OF BONES In its audacity, this silly amalgam of YA tropes can actually be a lot of fun.
69. THE CONJURING Fascinating subplots about the exorcism industry would be better served at the head of the film.
68. PEEPLESThere's a joke about wristwatches that I still think about.
67. SIDE EFFECTSSoderbergh's farewell caper doesn't have as much fun as its loony plot would demand.
66. ELYSIUMBroad and clumsy, but how wrong can you go with Bald Matt Damon?
65. OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFULIt works with Dark Side of the Moon.
64. THE COUNSELORThe book was better. Wait, this wasn't a book? Well it should have been.
63. IN A WORLD...A fun, biting look at an unappreciated industry! ... until it dissolves into mild genericism.
62. THE LONE RANGER Oh come on, you didn't love the William Tell climax?
61. THE WOLVERINENot always engaging, but at least it's about something.
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60. WARM BODIESNot really about anything, but at least it's engaging.
59. THE BROKEN CIRCLE BREAKDOWNUndeniably powerful, but feels like it could use a few more revisions.
58. ENDER'S GAMESpace Camp: The Movie! (Slightly less expensive than actual space camp.)
57. PACIFIC RIMMonsters vs. robots aside, there's a riveting world constructed in the backdrop of this sci-fi epic.
56. ANCHORMAN 2: THE LEGEND CONTINUESThe battle royale does not disappoint.
55. YOU'RE NEXTThe fun, swift hook isn't nearly as interesting as the great character work that it replaces.
54. THE WAY WAY BACKI, too, long to get life advice from a waterpark-dwelling Sam Rockwell.
53. SOME VELVET MORNINGEven if you see the twist coming, the chemistry here is impeccable.
52. THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIREShut up, Peeta, I'm trying to watch all the good parts of this movie.
51. 20 FEET FROM STARDOMA story that deserves a little more spirit and energy than it is given in this documentary.
50. DON JONNo. 50 on "Best Movies" list, No. 1 on "Best Trailers."
49. THE ROCKETA feel-good kids' adventure substantiated by the gravities of war. Wins in both areas.
48. CRYSTAL FAIRY & THE MAGICAL CACTUS AND 2012Beautifully shot, interestingly written, impressively acted.
47. MUD Yes, we all loved The Goonies, and we all loved David Wooderson, so...
46. CUTIE AND THE BOXER A vivid struggle that is equal parts artistically, martially, and internally based. Engrossing all the way.
45. CAPTAIN PHILLIPS Tom Hanks' best performance in ages in a dramatic thriller that feels real (for obvious reasons).
44. THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG As a Legend of Zelda fan, this movie's world awakened something in me.
43. FRUITVALE STATIONThis character story is at odds with its out-universe goal, but Michael B. Jordan is unforgettable.
42. BEFORE MIDNIGHTI'm still not sure how I feel about that ending, but it was good to catch up wit Jesse and Celine.
41. DARK TOUCHEverything that Carrie could have been. A shocking fantasy about human pains.
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40. THOR: THE DARK WORLDMore Chris O'Dowd.
39. BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLORIntellectually stimulating, but doesn't hit all its emotional marks.
38. THE WORLD'S ENDI've been saying "Gooey Wooey Egg Man" for months.
37. THE GREAT GATSBYLights! Music! Pizzazz! Moxy! The bee's knees! The cat's pajamas!
36. ENOUGH SAIDBest TV drama's male lead + best TV comedy's female lead = quite a charming romantic dramedy.
35. SIGHTSEERSWell, this is rather amusi— HOLY S**T WHERE THE F**K DID THAT COME FROM?!
34. THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINESNot sure if the "three stories" approach makes for the most powerful character work, but it's an enchanting ride.
33. THE WE AND THE I A bus full of inner-city high school kids turns into a magical kingdom thanks to Gondry's dreamy edge.
32. NEWLYWEEDSA love triangle with marijuana as the third party. Weighty, but never overly so, and funny throughout.
31. GRAVITY. . .
30. PRINCE AVALANCHE Heh heh, look at Paul Rudd's mustache.
29. THE WOLF OF WALL STREET Yes, we all loved the 'ludes scene. Very, very much.
28. ALL IS LOSTRobert Redford, you still got that same oomph. You too, ocean.
27. SAVING LINCOLN The weirdest, goofiest, funniest biopic about Abraham Lincoln ever.
26. THE KINGS OF SUMMER Kids run away, live in the woods, grow up, make jokes. Always a charming endeavor.
25. AMERICAN HUSTLE Little more than a cartoon, but an emotionally explosive and riotous one at that.
24. THE HEAT Melissa McCarthy insisting on stepping out of a moving car earns a full five minutes of laughter alone.
23. DRINKING BUDDIESNever dips too low on the emotional spectrum, but stays real and fresh in the face of the rom-com genre.
22. UPSTREAM COLORA difficult, confusing, harrowing thinker.
21. STOKER Somehow both effectively haunting and deliciously fun.
Room 237: the movie/Facebook
20. ROOM 237 Less a doting tribute to The Shining or Kubrick than it is to movie-lovers and their bottomless well of theories.
19. BLUE JASMINE Each party fires on all cylinders in Woody Allen's Streetcar gem, Sally Hawkins especially.
18. S#X ACTSThe sadness of this story of our youth's desperate obsession with and reliance on sex is its authenticity.
17. IRON MAN 3 The first true action comedy in Marvel's line of films shows how much fun superhero movies can really be.
16. ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW Take notes, John Dies at the End. THIS is one weird f**king movie.
15. NEBRASKA Father vs. son, past vs. present, dreams vs. reality. Everything here is touching, funny, and inviting.
14. PAIN & GAIN Michael Bay talks a long, hard look in the mirror with this biting send-up of everything his other movies represent.
13. THIS IS THE ENDFar more interesting and insightful than it will get credit for being, This Is the End uses a literal apocalypse and no dearth of d**k jokes to deconstruct tenets of friendship and social politics.
12. THE ACT OF KILLING While this documentary would benefit from restructuring, the power of its message (especially its final few monents, not to mention the "anonymous"-heavy credits) is painfully resonant.
11. FROZENOffering the magic and whimsy you'll remember from time-honored Disney classics, but so much more in the way of its message, Frozen might very well be the most magnificent and meaningful animated feature yet to spring from Walt's legacy.
10. COMPUTER CHESSIt doesn't have much to say about the human condition (beyond maybe highlighting our propensity for arrogance and self-directed delusion). It doesn't tell a story that'll stick with you for very long. But Computer Chess reigns supreme as, far and away, the funniest movie of 2013.
9. SPRING BREAKERS A dark, wicked, wholly upsetting reflection of the toxic direction in which we might be headed. And James Franco gives a tour-de-force of a performance with his demonic scoutmaster Alien.
8. IT'S A DISASTER An intelligent, meticulously directed farce about group politics and conflicting personal philosophies, executed to near perfection thanks to the rhythmic participation of a more than capable cast.
7. 12 YEARS A SLAVEAn unprecedented masterpiece that sings the traumas not only of Solomon Northrup, a free man captured and sold into slavery, but in his fellow sufferers as well. For my money, the true anchor of the story is in Lupita Nyong'o's Patsey, whose suffering is unlike anything we've seen managed on the big screen in years.
6. HER With so much to say about such tremendous topics, Her manages to still dive so deep into the heart of its story: the pangs of love in the wake of the inevitable fallibilities of romantic relationships. Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson alike give dynamic performances, and Spike Jonze mystifies us with his strange, cold, all-too-familiar world.
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5. THE SPECTACULAR NOWThis is one of those movies you try to convince yourself to inch out of your top 10, or five, for fear of being seen as juvenile. ButThe Spectacular Now hits such genuine notes with Miles Teller's Sutter, climaxing at a moment where you'll recognize an angst so true to life and so criminally absent from most movies about the journey toward self-love.
4. FRANCES HA Months and months after my first encounter with it, this deceptively simple film sticks in my head, reminding me that its every artful beat is riddled with emotional weight and ironic humor alike. Greta Gerwig and director Noah Baumbach give us the a New York movie to rival Annie Hall, zooming in and out of the perspective of the young women and men who occupy, and drown within, today's version of the biggest, most stupefying city in the world.
3. INSIDE LLEWYN DAVISSadness, coldness, loneliness, failure... such wonderful things when handled by filmmakers like the Coen Brothers. Padding this antithesis of triumph with some of the most beautiful, somber music you'll hear all year, Inside Llewyn Davis makes us fall in love all over again with the very idea of the artistic struggle.
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2. THE WIND RISESHayao Miyazaki's final movie doesn't pass judgment on its hero, a man so devoted to his work (building weapons) that he neglects his wife, sister, and friends. It doesn't endorse these choices either. Instead, it hones in on the passions of its hero/antihero, challenging us to sympathize with a fellow whose only desire is to do his job while we lament his sacrifices. More even than Gravity does the frequently airborne animated picture induce dizzy spells as we connect with the conglomerate of colorful, intriguing characters in this grim but dainty biography.
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1. SHORT TERM 12 There are so few flaws to highlight in The Wind Rises, Inside Llewyn Davis, Frances Ha, and the other entries on this top 10 list. What separates Short Term 12 is not a complete lack of error, but in an umatched spirit for the telling of its story. The movie wants us to feel the pains of counselor Grace (Brie Larson) and the disavantaged children for whom she cares, highlighting abused Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever) and orphan Marcus (Keith Stanfield). It also wants us to feel the hope that it brings to these characters in their plight to overcome the hands they have been dealt. Every emotion in this movie carries through with such force. For those of us who know any of these trials personally, they ring tremendously true. For others, they work to invite you into this sad but hopeful world. We've been gifted with a ton of exemplary cinematic works this year, but nothing sticks with me more than this tearful, heartrending masterpiece.
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While recent animated blockbusters have aimed to viewers of all ages starting with fantastical concepts and breathtaking visuals but tackling complex emotional issues along the way Ice Age: Continental Drift is crafted especially for the wee ones — and it works. Venturing back to prehistoric times once again the fourth Ice Age film paints broad strokes on the theme of familial relationships throwing in plenty of physical comedy along the way. The movie isn't that far off from one of the many Land Before Time direct-to-video sequels: not particularly innovative or necessary but harmless thrilling fun for anyone with a sense of humor. Unless they have a particular distaste for wooly mammoths the kids will love it.
Ice Age: Continental Drift continues to snowball its cartoon roster bringing back the original film's trio (Ray Romano as Manny the Mammoth Denis Leary as Diego the Sabertooth Tiger and John Leguizamo as Sid the Sloth) new faces acquired over the course of the franchise (Queen Latifah as Manny's wife Ellie) and a handful of new characters to spice things up everyone from Nicki Minaj as Manny's daughter Steffie to Wanda Sykes as Sid's wily grandma. The whole gang is living a pleasant existence as a herd with Manny's biggest problem being playing overbearing dad to the rebellious daughter. Teen mammoths they always want to go out and play by the waterfall! Whippersnappers.
The main thrust of the film comes when Scratch the Rat (whose silent comedy routines in the vein of Tex Avery/WB cartoons continue to be the series highlight) accidentally cracks the singular continent Pangea into the world we know today. Manny Diego and Sid find themselves stranded on an iceberg once again forced on a road trip journey of survival. The rest of the herd embarks to meet them giving Steffie time to realize the true meaning of friendship with help from her mole pal Louis (Josh Gad).
The ham-handed lessons may drag for those who've passed Kindergarten but Ice Age: Continental Drift is a lot of fun when the main gang crosses paths with a group of villainous pirates. (Back then monkeys rabbits and seals were hitting the high seas together pillaging via boat-shaped icebergs. Obviously.) Quickly Ice Age becomes an old school pirate adventure complete with maritime navigation buried treasure and sword fights. Gut (Peter Dinklage) an evil ape with a deadly... fingernail leads the evil-doers who pose an entertaining threat for the familiar bunch. Jennifer Lopez pops by as Gut's second-in-command Shira the White Tiger and the film's two cats have a chase scene that should rouse even the most apathetic adults. Hearing Dinklage (of Game of Thrones fame) belt out a pirate shanty may be worth the price of admission alone.
With solid action (that doesn't need the 3D addition) cartoony animation and gags out the wazoo Ice Age: Continental Drift is entertainment to enjoy with the whole family. Revelatory? Not quite. Until we get a feature length silent film of Scratch's acorn pursuit we may never see a "classic" Ice Age film but Continental Drift keeps it together long enough to tell a simple story with delightful flare that should hold attention spans of any length. Massive amounts of sugar not even required.
[Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox]
Theatrics slapstick and cheer are cinematic qualities you rarely find outside the realm of animation. Disney perfected it with their pantheon of cartoon classics mixing music humor spectacle and light-hearted drama that swept up children while still capturing the imaginations and hearts of their parents. But these days even reinterpretations of fairy tales get the gritty make-over leaving little room for silliness and unfiltered glee. Emerging through that dark cloud is Mirror Mirror a film that achieves every bit of imagination crafted by its two-dimensional predecessors and then some. Under the eye of master visualist Tarsem Singh (The Fall Immortals) Mirror Mirror's heightened realism imbues it with the power to pull off anything — and the movie never skimps on the anything.
Like its animated counterparts Mirror Mirror stays faithful to its source material but twists it just enough to feel unique. When Snow White (Lily Collins) was a little girl her father the King ventured into a nearby dark forest to do battle with an evil creature and was never seen or heard from again. The kingdom was inherited by The Queen (Julia Roberts) Snow's evil stepmother and the fair-skinned beauty lived locked up in the castle until her 18th birthday. Grown up and tired of her wicked parental substitute White sneaks out of the castle to the village for the first time. There she witnesses the economic horrors The Queen has imposed upon the people of her land all to fuel her expensive beautification. Along the way Snow also meets Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) who is suffering from his own money troubles — mainly being robbed by a band of stilt-wearing dwarves. When the Queen catches wind of the secret excursion she casts Snow out of the castle to be murdered by her assistant Brighton (Nathan Lane).
Fairy tales take flack for rejecting the idea of women being capable but even with its flighty presentation and dedication to the old school Disney method Mirror Mirror empowers its Snow White in a genuine way thanks to Collins' snappy charming performance. After being set free by Brighton Snow crosses paths with the thieving dwarves and quickly takes a role on their pilfering team (which she helps turn in to a Robin Hooding business). Tarsem wisely mines a spectrum of personalities out of the seven dwarves instead of simply playing them for one note comedy. Sure there's plenty of slapstick and pun humor (purposefully and wonderfully corny) but each member of the septet stands out as a warm compassionate companion to Snow even in the fantasy world.
Mirror Mirror is richly designed and executed in true Tarsem-fashion with breathtaking costumes (everything from ball gowns to the dwarf expando-stilts to ridiculous pirate ship hats with working canons) whimsical sets and a pitch-perfect score by Disney-mainstay Alan Menken. The world is a storybook and even its monsters look like illustrations rather than photo-real creations. But what makes it all click is the actors. Collins holds her own against the legendary Julia Roberts who relishes in the fun she's having playing someone despicable. She delivers every word with playful bite and her rapport with Lane is off-the-wall fun. Armie Hammer riffs on his own Prince Charming physique as Alcott. The only real misgiving of the film is the undercooked relationship between him and Snow. We know they'll get together but the journey's half the fun and Mirror Mirror serves that portion undercooked.
Children will swoon for Mirror Mirror but there's plenty here for adults — dialogue peppered with sharp wisecracks and a visual style ripped from an elegant tapestry. The movie wears its heart on its sleeve and rarely do we get a picture where both the heart and the sleeve feel truly magical.