Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Cinema File #308: "Ride Along" Review

The month of January is typically where bad films go to die, a dumping ground for lackluster excuses for entertainment not befitting the blockbuster expectations of spring and summer or the end of the year prestige of Oscar season. As with last year's Identity Thief, occasionally a movie will stand out commercially as the best of a lot of bad options, and this year, that dubious honor has apparently fallen upon the Kevin Hart/Ice Cube buddy cop movie Ride Along. With a 50 million dollar opening and a sequel already green lit, any amount of hope in the collective taste of American film goers would suggest that it has to be at least passable, right? Ugh.

Ride Along is the story of...oh who cares? You've probably seen the trailer, so you should have the jist of it, and if you haven't seen it, its the same buddy cop formula you've seen a million times. I'm sorry, but I just don't have the strength to invest my time and energy into this kind of movie anymore. I don't mean the buddy cop genre per se, so much as the obviously bad genre to which it was clear this movie belonged even before I sat down to watch it. Taste and opinion being subjective, if you like what you've seen of the film's two stars or their comic interplay in the advertising, you should easily find their trifling adventures to be amusing long enough to distract you from the lack of introspection that led you to find something so shallow and pandering so funny in the first place.

Okay, I'm sorry, I don't mean to be a curmudgeon, but when did we completely abandon all standards of comedy? This is going to get a bit personal and off topic, but over the past week or so I've been binge watching the last few years of the NBC sitcom Community, a brilliant series that has constantly been on the bubble as executives and mass audiences alike fail to understand the pearls in front of their stupid swine-like noses, and then I read this morning that this piece of shit made 50 million dollars in its opening weekend. At some point, we have to just admit that we don't deserve to have nice things, if our value system is so screwed up that this is the kind of writing that we reward.

I'd love to actually see the screenplay for this movie. Ride Along boasts four screenwriters, one of whom I know to be very funny as the co-host of one of my favorite podcasts, Jason Mansoukis of How Did This Get Made, but so much of this movie amounts to letting Kevin Hart riff nonsensically as Ice Cube tries to look cool enough to make us forget Are We There Yet was a thing. I have to imagine that nearly every scene in the script at some point just defaulted to "Kevin Hart dialogue to be improvised later." Really? You needed four writers for that? Apparently the original idea for the character would have made him a milquetoast white guy, which might have been more novel and had more potential for edgy racial humor, but then Eugene Levy's probably too old to believably play Ice Cube's brother in law.

Just an example of the thought process behind this movie: The set up has Ice Cube's impossibly tough movie cop saddled with Kevin Hart's loudmouthed security guard for a day of crime busting as a larger, more serious case looms in the background. At some point, after being forced to arrest a man slathered in honey among other silly escapades, Hart learns that the police code for all the calls they've been taking is meant for particularly annoying cases no one else wants, used to haze rookies. Insulted by Ice Cube's prank, Hart's character blunders into a real hostage situation, assuming it is fake, displaying a measure of bravery that he would not have otherwise. Do you see the flaw here? At no point were there any fake crimes, just less important ones, but for some reason he thinks its like a play they're all putting on for his benefit, and when the guns go off, he's surprised that they're real.

Why would he think they're not real? It makes no fucking sense, even in the context of a character being generally inexperienced and stupid. This movie doesn't even bother to think the basic elements through. The villain is the mysterious Omar, a criminal mastermind no one has ever seen, which would suggest that when he is revealed, that he would be someone that we've already seen, because that's the only reason to give this character this unseen attribute. They even hire Bruce McGill as the police chief, who was born to play secret bad guys in third act villain turns. But no, he's just revealed to be some guy, and not in a clever subversion of the expected twist, just an inability to follow through on an obvious set up. This movie almost feels like a parody of itself, like the kind of obviously bad movie you'd see people watching in a different movie altogether.

And its getting a sequel. Just let that knowledge settle in for a bit. Think of all the movies you've ever thought were criminally deprived of sequels either because they were made prior to the time where everything was a franchise, or because they didn't make enough money to justify one, and then imagine the continuing adventures of these two unfunny, uninteresting, undeserving schmucks. We won't have to wait long, because I can't imagine it takes very long to bang out a script where 90% of the dialogue is Kevin Hart caterwauling to himself, especially now that we've already developed the intricate world of boring cliches in which he operates. Happy January everybody. Enjoy your shitty movies that'll only get shittier as you settle for less and less every year. I hope you fucking choke on them.

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