Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Ride Along Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Sean Ferguson
In the biggest original-comedy opening since Ted, a seasoned police detective takes his fast-talking brother-in-law-to-be on the ride of a lifetime from Universal Studios Home Entertainment. For the past two years, high school security guard Ben (Kevin Hart) has been trying to show decorated detective James (Ice Cube) that he’s more than just a video game junkie who’s unworthy of James’ sister. When Ben finally gets accepted into the police academy, James invites him on a ride-along designed to scare the hell out of him and ultimately demonstrate if Ben has what it takes to take care of his sister. But when the wild night leads them to the most notorious criminal in the city, James will find that his new partner’s rapid-fire mouth is just as dangerous as the bullets speeding at it.
Film (3 out of 5 stars)
I've loved "buddy cop" movies ever since Lethal Weapon came out, so I was looking forward to seeing this latest iteration of the genre, but I missed it in the theaters so I was glad to get the chance to review it on Blu-ray. Ride Along continues the tradition well, but it's nowhere near as good as the Lethal Weapon movies, but they may also be due to the filmmakers intent on making a comedic Training Day rather than the traditional "buddy cop" film. And that's fine, but I think it was a missed opportunity for more laughs. That being said, I have the feeling that the planned sequel will follow the more traditional aspects of the genre based on the ending of this movie.

Kevin Hart continues his skyrocketing momentum here as Ben Barber, a gamer who has aspirations to leave behind his job as a school security guard to become a real cop, like his girlfriend Angela (Tika Sumpter)'s brother James Payton (Ice Cube). James has made it no secret that he thinks Angela is wasting her time with a loser and he gives Ben plenty of hints to move on since he isn't good enough for her. James also doesn't have any respect for Ben's chances to become a cop based on his short height and his lack of skills. The only thing that Ben seems to be good at is playing "Call of Duty" like video games.

When Ben is finally accepted into the police academy, James sees this an final opportunity to scare Ben off once and for all. He offers to take Ben on a ride along with him to see what police life will be like over the course of a day. He doesn't tell Ben that he's planning on making the day as difficult as possible by putting Ben in bad situations (both real and staged) by having every crazy assignment be assigned to them. Of course, his real police work comes up during their day which is not surprising. He's been tracking an arms dealer named "Omar" (think Keyser Soze) and of course they get involved in that during their ride along. It also shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that during this ride along that the two men will start to bond and appreciate each other. If they can just survive this mess long enough, they just might become friends.

Ride Along has some laughs to it but it seems that the director Tim Story (the Fantastic Four films) decided to focus more on delivering action than laughs. It's tough to try to replicate the incredible Lethal Weapon formula and this one doesn't come close. I enjoyed it and there's not too many people that can play it straight better than Ice Cube who glowers through the entire movie. Kevin Hart reminds me of Chris Tucker, where they both work best in small doses. Hart has the largest role in this movie and it was a little too much for me. Some of his comedy works and some of it doesn't (much like in Grudge Match), but combined, the two men have good chemistry together. There's also some good supporting work here from Laurence Fishburne, Philip Baker Hall, and others, with one of them being the obvious bad guy "Omar" just by putting two and two together from watching the opening credits and seeing a little of the movie. I'd be interested in seeing the upcoming sequel which I suspect will follow more of the "buddy cop" formula than this one which I think will make a big difference.
Video (5 out of 5 stars)
This 1080p (2.40:1) transfer was shot with the Red Epic digital camera so as you'd expect, the resulting picture looks very nice. The picture is sharp looking with bright and accurate colors and natural looking flesh tones. Black levels are suitably dark which is a good thing considering how many scenes take place in darkened areas. There's no digital defects or other issues such as scratches or noise to complain about. This is a very nice transfer for Blu-ray.
Audio (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Ride Along's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1  mix is also good but not quite to the same level as the video quality. The front channel delivers clear dialogue while the rear channels offer some ambience but not as much as I would have liked. The music comes through loud and clear and at a much higher volume than the rest of the movie which I didn't like. The only other times that this mix really came to life was during the various shootouts. This mix works for the film but it could have been better.
Extras (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
There's a decent assortment of extras included but most of them are fairly short which is too bad. The good news is that they are all in high definition.
  • Feature Commentary With Director Tim Story - The director of the Fantastic Four movies and Barbershop, Tim Story shares his thoughts on the movie and his hopes for a sequel. 
  • It Was A Good Day: On The Set Of Ride Along: A backstage visit puts audiences on the set of Ride Along as they share in the cast and crew’s outrageously wild time. In-your-face, first-person footage featuring Kevin Hart, Ice Cube, John Leguizamo and the rest of the cast and crew continues the fast-paced laughs and action of the film. This twelve minute look at the making of the film is pretty interesting but short.
  • Kev & Cube’s Wild Ride: Audiences will experience Kevin Hart and Ice Cube’s electrifying chemistry in a short feature that shows first hand how these two megastars fed each other creatively, how Hart’s energy fueled the process, and what he learned about dedication and focus by working with Ice Cube. The two share good chemistry in this movie and this featurette does a nice job exploring that.
  • An Explosive Ride: Ever wonder what it would be like to be beaten up by Laurence Fishburne? This trip behind the scenes will expose the hilarious exchanges between the stars and their stunt doubles. We also get to see the filming of the various shootouts and the stunts involved in these scenes.
  • You Gonna Learn Today: An inside look at the film’s many hilarious off-script moments including b-roll, dailies and alternate takes that showcase the stars’ incredible comic gifts. This one is mainly focused on Kevin Hart.
  • Anatomy of the Big Blast: Watch as the cast and crew prep for the movie’s most explosive sequence!
  • Atlanta – The Character: Often called Hollywood South, the city of Atlanta plays a starring role in Ride Along as Kevin Hart, Ice Cube and crew take audiences on an exclusive tour of their ’hood. Think of this as a love letter to Atlanta.
  • Gag Reel - Outtakes and mangled lines are shown during this three minute look at the actor's messing up and fooling around. 
  • Alternate Ending - This alternate ending shows Ben's graduation from the police academy and his immediate involvement in one of James' cases. I think this ending is the one they should have used.
  • Deleted Scenes - We get six deleted scenes that last about eight and half minutes altogether, consisting of the following scenes: "James Meets Marko," "Ben Dresses For Work," "Ben Proposes to Angela," "Drive to Hospital," "Drive to Angela's," and "Omar Escapes."
  • Alternate Take - Another outtake involving Kevin Hart and Ice Cube.
Summary (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Ride Along is a fun but slight movie that seems to have a hard time deciding on whether to be an action movie or a comedy. Both of the main performers have good chemistry together and I'm fairly certain that the sequel will be even more fun. This Blu-ray offers a very nice picture and above average audio quality and the extras are also fairly extensive but short. If you are a fan of Ice Cube and/or Kevin Hart, then you should pick this movie up!

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