Ben Barber is all about taking down bad guys. And he is quite good at doing it too.
Granted, they're virtual evildoers—terrorists in an online multiplayer shooter, which means all his experience in large-caliber heroism comes from the comfort of his own couch. But soon Ben will have the chance to show off his mad skills in a less pixelated forum: He's been accepted to Atlanta's police academy, which means he'll be toting a real gun, firing rounds at real bad guys and getting props from real people for his real-life heroism. And that, he thinks, will be real swell.
Why, he might even get his girlfriend's brother, James, to like him a little more.
See, James is the sort of cop who makes Dirty Harry look like Morrissey, a man who makes criminals shake in their stolen boots when he just glances their way. And he thinks Ben's a little … soft. Squealy. Annoying. Like a Pomeranian lapping up too much Mountain Dew. Ben's certainly not good enough, James thinks, to date his little sister.
So upon hearing that Ben's been accepted to the police academy, James isn't a bit impressed. All it does, actually, is give him an idea for how to further humiliate Ben. He'll take the guy on a ride along—a day tour of Atlanta's toughest streets to see what the li'l softie's really made of. Oh, James already knows Ben will collapse like a Jell-O skyscraper, particularly since he's set up a couple of surprises along the way. But to see him prove his unworthiness once and for all, well, that's worth a day of James' time. It'll be fun to watch the ensuing meltdown.
And taking along a frenetic, trigger-happy wannabe for a day of hard-core police action? What could go wrong?
Ben and James don't have much in common, but they both have a strong desire to clean up Atlanta (even if their clean-up efforts aren't always clean). They really do want to bring some very bad people to justice.
James, for all his rough edges, is an incorruptible cop (despite lots of opportunities to switch sides). He also clearly wants what's best for his sister, Angela. And Ben, for all his curious antics, shows himself to be a man of surprising courage who also wants what's best for Angela. When the chips are down, both guys realize they can (big shocker) rely on each other.
Ben says he wants to make an "honest woman" out of Angela at some point, but those are just words for now since they're already shacking up together. We see Ben and Angela in bed together, engaged in foreplay. Ben's shirt is off. Then they're interrupted by James. And when Ben's on his daylong mission with James, Angela texts him to hurry home for sex. (James intercepts the message.) James' partners concoct a lewd picture of what Ben and Angela's lovemaking must look and sound like.
James and Ben answer a call at a strip joint, where we see women in bikinis and other ultra-revealing outfits. Ben quips that he'll have to come back with lots of dollar bills.
When Ben questions a child in a semi-threatening manner, the kid starts hollering such things as "Stranger danger!" and "You want me to touch you where?!" The confrontation is obviously designed to be "funny" while casting Ben as a pedophile. He also gets into trouble with a biker gang when he mistakes a girl for a guy because she sports a small beard.
We hear some salacious "sweet nothings." Ben's gaming nickname is "Black Hammer," which we learn has sexual connotations. Someone's mother is said to have been a stripper. A man strips down to his tight-fitting skivvies and pours honey on himself.
Several people are harmed during Ben and James' ill-fated ride along, including the two protagonists: Both suffer gunshot wounds, and one pokes the other with a knife. Backyard barbecues also prove to be hazardous to their health. We see Ben singe himself when his grill belches a fireball that sends him flying through a shrub. We hear about Ben accidentally setting James on fire. James fantasizes about gunning Ben down in an alleyway.
Out on the mean streets, loads of folks are punched, kicked, wrestled, roughed up, thrown around, shot and sometimes killed. One man gets plugged in the leg and then brutally finished off. Another is accidentally shot in the shoulder. A third is shot a few times in the chest (but somehow survives). A fourth takes a bullet in the rear. Someone has his head slammed into glass. A guy pulls up a bloody pant leg to reveal a bullet hole in his calf.
Ben's favorite game is a violent Call of Duty-type shooter. We see digital dudes getting shot, beaten and dismembered. And while it's obvious that Ben's gaming experience doesn't help him shoot any straighter in real life, the movie suggests that the millions of hours he spent playing the thing weren't entirely wasted: He can identify a type of gun by sound it makes, for instance, and has learned that he has a few seconds to pick up a live grenade and hurl it back to its sender. (Well, at least that kind of logic works for him in the movies!)
Cars crash. Vehicles and buildings blow up, killing lots of folks. He hear about losing legs in a war and quips about faces getting burned off. Ben tends to fight by rapidly slapping his opponents (like a little girl might).
Crude or Profane Language
One f-word, about 50 s-words and lots of other swear words, including "a‑‑" (more than 25 times), "b‑‑ch," "b‑‑tard," "d‑‑n" and "h‑‑‑." The n-word is tossed into the fray a couple of times, as is "p‑‑‑y." God's name is misused a half-dozen times (twice with "d‑‑n"), and Jesus' name is abused once. Ben and his online friends have crude nicknames, and we hear crass comments about various body parts.
Drug and Alcohol Content
After getting shot, Ben is taken to the hospital and given a morphine drip. Under its influence, he reveals embarrassing truths and talks about how high he is. When he disconnects himself and gets into a fight with someone, he goes on about how he can't feel the punishment he's taking.
A troublemaker is shown drunk at a grocery store, holding a bottle of vodka. Ben talks a student out of skipping school and drinking.
Other Negative Elements
James may be tasked with upholding the law, but that doesn't mean he shows any great sorrow when he breaks it himself. Allowing Ben to masquerade as a police officer is a pretty big infraction, and it's just the beginning. Ben, too, often bends or breaks the law along the way. And while it's all done for the sake of the movie's comedy, it's also clear that Ride Along really does think the end justifies the means.
We hear disparaging jokes. Ben is called a "weenie." And constipation makes the list too.
Playing a wannabe cop here, Kevin Hart has become as ubiquitous as donut shops in the '80s, and he's scheduled to appear in four movies in 2014—all of which ask him to riff on some version of his frenetic, near-spastic self. And it's true that the guy can be funny. He lends Ride Along whatever charm it has to offer.
But that charm isn't enough—not when a film is as predictable and crass as this one. The language here is lewd; the sexual allusions are blushingly bad; the morality is messed up; and the violence, while not grotesque, is unremitting.
Still wanna ride along?
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Ice Cube as James Payton; Kevin Hart as Ben Barber; John Leguizamo as Santiago; Bruce McGill as Lt. Brooks; Tika Sumpter as Angela Payton; Bryan Callen as Miggs; Laurence Fishburne as Omar
Tim Story (Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain, Think Like a Man, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, Fantastic Four, Taxi, Barbershop)
January 17, 2014
Paul Asay Paul Asay