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
What I’ve always admired about Adrien Brody is his project-choosing process. He takes on big studio flicks like King Kong and Predators from time to time but for the most part he’s a maverick sticking to independent or avant-garde fare in which he’s able to express himself with artistic integrity through unorthodox narratives. Such is the case in Wrecked his new film that sounds like Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours on paper but is far more disconcerting than that true tale of survival.
The story begins at the bottom of a featureless ravine inside a broken-down car that’s apparently been run off the road. In the passenger seat is an unnamed Man (Brody) who is trapped in shotgun while the body of a stranger rots in the backseat. Adding to this disturbing scenario is memory loss – the Man can’t recall how he got there or who he is. As dehydration starvation and exhaustion set in the line between reality and delusion blurs and the audience goes on a strange trip of rediscovery with the enigmatic prisoner.
While the linchpin in Boyle’s film is James Franco’s performance Wrecked relies more on the atmospheric direction of Michael Greenspan who makes his feature debut with this surreal picture. That’s not to say that Brody doesn’t deliver an unnerving portrayal of a man in a grave situation. As he moans and writhes in and out of his seat you can’t help sympathizing with him though screenwriter Christopher Dodd concocts a backstory that removes whatever remorse you had for him at times while piquing your curiosity at others. He heightens the anxiety of the unknown with a spooky score longer-than-average shots and a few bizarre situations. The natural environments and minimalist screenplay aid the filmmaker in creating his eerie tone despite the picturesque setting which would be calming if not for some perplexing hallucinations related to the Man’s past predicament.
Unfortunately the bare bones script is also the biggest problem with Wrecked as the film like its protagonist doesn’t really go anywhere. The revelations come far too quickly resulting in a boring anti-climactic effect. Even though there’s some distressing fun to be had while getting to the finish line it’s a sterilized psychological thriller that brings to mind films like Brad Anderson’s The Machinist but fails to achieve that level of ambiguous magnetism.
The Simpson blame game: It was acid reflux
Rather than fading away quietly, Ashlee Simpson's lip-synching debacle on Saturday Night Live is gaining momentum, thanks in part to the plethora of excuses the pop sibling's given about her not-so-live performance. First she claimed it was the band's blunder. Then it was NBC's mix-up. Now, Simpson's manager father is blaming the 19-year-old singer's SNL snafu on ... gas? According to Joe Simpson, it was his decision to use the tapes after acid reflux disease had swollen Ashlee's vocal chords and made her voice hoarse. "Just like any artist in America, she has a backing track that she pushes so you don't have to hear her croak through a song on national television. No one wants to hear that," Joe Simpson told Ryan Seacrest Monday on Los Angeles radio station KIIS-FM. He also insisted she's never used the extra help onstage before. "Every artist that I know in this business has had vocal problems at some time--from Celine on down," he added. Simpson had performed her hit single "Pieces of Me" without incident earlier on SNL, but when she came back for her second performance, her band started playing and the first lines of her singing "Pieces of Me" could be heard again. The band plowed ahead with the song while a visibly confused Simpson made some clownish dance moves before walking off the stage. SNL executive producer Lorne Michaels told The Associated Press the incident wasn't a big deal. "She was mortified and in her dressing room, but (producer) Marci (Klein) got her to come out for goodnights and explained that it wasn't the end of the world. It wasn't her fault," he said. "If she were a more seasoned performer then I think that she would've taken charge and said, 'No, let's start this over again.'"
SNL creator Lorne Michaels honored
Lip-synching debacles aside, Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels was awarded the 2004 Mark Twain Prize for American Humor at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Reuters reports. Guests included Not Ready for Prime Time stars Steve Martin, Tim Meadows, Darrell Hammond, Chevy Chase, Molly Shannon, Dan Aykroyd and Tina Fey. Also present were singer Paul Simon, actress Candice Bergen, talk show host Conan O'Brien and U.S. Sens. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.). Guests praised and occasionally embarrassed the 59-year-old Canadian-born Michaels, who described SNL as "always being stuck in adolescence." The ceremony will air on PBS early next year.
Feverish Lohan hospitalized
Lindsay Lohan has been hospitalized in Los Angeles for treatment of a high fever, a spokeswoman for the teen actress told Reuters Monday. "She's undergoing some tests," her publicist Leslie Sloane Zelnik said, adding the actress may be suffering from the flu. "She's doing well and resting." The Mean Girls star was admitted to the hospital over the weekend after being ill for several days and running a temperature as high as 103 degrees, Zelnik said. The illness has forced Lohan, 18, to miss several days of filming on her upcoming movie, Herbie: Fully Loaded, and a guest spot opposite real-life boyfriend Wilmer Valderrama on the Fox sitcom That '70s Show.
Usher, Linkin Park dominate Radio Music Awards
Usher and Linkin Park dominated the Radio Music Awards Monday night at the Aladdin hotel-casino on the Las Vegas Strip. Usher took home Hip-Hop Artist of the Year and Hip-Hop Song of the Year for "Yeah!" while Linkin Park won the Rock Artist of the Year and Alternative Rock Song of the Year for "Numb." The Legend Award was given to Janet Jackson. Performers included Elton John, Chingy, Tim McGraw, Big & Rich, Gretchen Wilson, Train and Alanis Morissette. The two-hour event was telecast on NBC. Nominees in each category are based on radio's top-playing songs and are voted on by radio program and music directors nationwide.
Dave Matthews Band donates money
The Dave Matthews Band has donated $50,000 to the Friends of the Chicago River and the Chicago Park District amid an investigation into the dumping of human waste from the group's tour bus into the Chicago River that also doused a tour boat, Rolling Stone.com reports. In August, the city filed suit against the band and its driver, charging them with violating water pollution and public nuisance laws. But the band maintains the driver, whom the group has since suspended, was the only person on the bus. "What happened to the people on the boat is awful and it goes against so many principles we hold dear: environmentalism, accountability, and, mostly, principles of humanity," the band said in a statement. "We will continue to fight for these principles, and seek to live up to the values they represent…we simply want to begin the healing process."
Ovitz set to take stand
Former Mouse House prexy Michael Ovitz will take the stand today in a Georgetown, Del. Court, facing charges by angry Walt Disney Co. shareholders that he cheated them when he left the company with a $140 million severance package, Reuters reports. The suit, filed by Disney shareholders seven years ago against the company's board of directors, claims Disney chief Michael Eisner engineered the deal in 1995 to hire his friend Ovitz, one of Hollywood's most powerful talent agents and co-founder of Creative Artists Agency, as president. But when things didn't work out, Disney's board awarded Ovitz a $140 million severance package rather than firing him--a major faux pas in the eyes of the shareholders. Ovitz is expected to argue that he was entitled to the hefty pay package.
Hamptons honors Most High
The 12th annual Hamptons Film Festival gave its highest honor, the Golden Starfish award, to Marty Sader's drama Most High, about a young man's descent into crystal meth addiction, Variety reports. The audience favorite award went to Vincent Rubino's romantic comedy The Breakup Artist and Leslie Sullivan's A Touch of Greatness was awarded best documentary.
Kit Bowen contributed to this report.
Bobby Garfield (David Morse) returns to his small hometown to attend the funeral of his childhood friend and remembers the fateful summer in 1960 when his whole world changed. The story flashes back to when 11-year-old Bobby (Anton Yelchin) and his best friends Carol (Mika Boorem) and Sully-John (Will Rothhaar) capture the pure joy of youthfulness. When a mysterious stranger named Ted Brautigan (Anthony Hopkins) moves upstairs and starts to pay attention to Bobby the boy suddenly realizes what's truly missing from his life--the love of a parent. Bobby's mother Liz (Hope Davis) is embittered by the death of Bobby's father and shows little compassion for her son's growing needs. Ted fills a void with the boy opening his eyes to the world around him and helps Bobby come to terms with his real feelings for Carol--and his mother. But Ted also has some deep dark secrets of his own and Bobby tries hard to stop danger from reaching the old man.
The performances make the film especially in the genuine camaraderie of the kids. Yelchin Boorem and Rothhaar never deliver a false move with an easiness that makes us believe we are simply watching three 11-year-old children grow up together. Yelchin in particular is able to get right to the heart of this young boy who misses his father and clings to the only adult who will listen. And his scenes with Boorem simply break your heart. (Davis) does an admirable job playing a part none too sympathetic. She manages to show a woman whose been beaten down but who does truly love her son in her own way. Morse too is one of those character actors you can plug in any movie and get a performance worth noting. In Hearts you want to see more of him. Of course the film shines brightest when Hopkins is on the screen. It may not be an Oscar-caliber performance but the actor is unparalleled in bringing a character to life--showing the subtleties of an old man looking for some peace in his life.
If you are expecting the Stephen King novel you may be disappointed. Screenwriter William Goldman and director Scott Hicks (Shine) deftly extracted the King formula of telling a story through a child's eye and explaining how the relationships formed as a child shaped the adult later. Hicks did an amazing job with his young actors especially Yelchin and Boorem. But where the novel continued into a supernatural theme explaining Brautigan's fear of being captured by "low men in yellow coats" (a reference to King's The Dark Tower series) the movie downplayed the mystical elements instead giving real explanations for Brautigan's man-on-the-run. That was the one problem with Hearts--we needed more danger. Introducing men from another dimension may not have been the way to go but had there been more tension the film would have resonated more especially when Bobby risked his own safety to save Ted.