Maybe it’s talking like he’s stuck on fast-forward that helps Kevin Hart squeeze in so much screen work these days. The runty, motor-mouthed comedian’s latest movie comes sandwiched between the stand-up film “Let Me Explain,” a couple of recent studio comedies, and a bevy of 2014 releases. But if all that yammering has had mixed results (it wasn’t nearly enough to ignite “Grudge Match,” for example), at least it gives a boost to the familiar buddy-cops formula of “Ride Along.”
Actually, cop-and-wannabe formula is more like it. Hart plays Ben, a school security guard and combat video game obsessive with imminent plans to marry his live-in girlfriend, Angela (Tyler Perry troupe member Tika Sumpter), and big dreams of joining the Atlanta PD. Neither idea sits well with Angela’s brother, James (top-billed Ice Cube), a truculent police detective who offers Ben a dubious chance to prove his manhood by riding shotgun with him for a day.
James ostensibly has a packed schedule, what with his dogged efforts to track down a shadowy, never-photographed crime boss named Omar. (As with any procedural, scan the opening credits for notable names, and you’ll likely crack the featured-crooks case well before the police do.) Still, there’s time enough to line up a string of humiliating nuisance calls for James’s prospective brother-in-law to handle: tangling with illegally parked lady bikers, trying to pry information from sassy playground kids, and attempting a “Cops”-worthy takedown of a honey-slathered grocery shopper gone wild. Along the way, of course, Ben happens to stumble onto a couple of clues vital to that whole Omar business. And you just know his mad gamer skills are going to come in handy too.
Hart’s clowning here is that rare case where louder is, in fact, funnier. He frets and shrilly freaks with every rookie misstep or belittling slight, and does it with such energy that it’s all pretty infectious, even when the bits are underwritten. He’s also well paired with Ice Cube, who’s got too much teddy-bear fuzz on his resume by this point to project much of an edge — not without an assist from the right counterpoint character, anyway. (Cube and castmate Laurence Fishburne are a long way from “Boyz n the Hood.”) At times things drift away from, say, “Rush Hour” and more toward “Naked Gun” silliness than director Tim Story (“Think Like a Man”) perhaps intends. But if the alternative is taking Story’s modest, effectively choreographed mayhem and piling on heaps more just for the sake of image, we’re good with silly.