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Ride Along: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD UltraViolet Review

Ride Along (2014) movie poster Ride Along

Theatrical Release: January 17, 2014 / Running Time: 100 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Tim Story / Writers: Greg Coolidge (story & screenplay); Jason Mantzoukas, Phil Hay, Matt Manfredi (screenplay)

Cast: Ice Cube (James Payton), Kevin Hart (Ben Barber), John Leguizamo (Santiago), Bruce McGill (Lt. Brooks), Tika Sumpter (Angela Payton), Bryan Callen (Miggs), Laurence Fishburne (Omar), Dragos Bucur (Marko), Gary Owen (Crazy Cody), Jacob Latimore (Ramon), Jay Pharoah (Runflat), Benjamin 'Lil P-Nut' Flores, Jr. (Morris The Kid)

Buy Ride Along from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD UltraViolet DVD Instant Video

With Ride Along, Kevin Hart makes the leap to movie stardom. He's been heading in that direction for years, with well-received supporting roles and ensemble performances, plus an unusually lucrative stand-up comedy film.
Grossing well over $100 million on a production budget of just $25 M, this 2014 action-comedy makes the status official, especially since its success seems predicated far more on the appeal of Hart than his top-billed co-star Ice Cube.

Hart and Cube tread no new ground in this routine buddy comedy, which will invite comparisons to films like The Other Guys, Cop Out, and Pineapple Express from myopic moviegoers.

Hart plays to type as Ben Barber, an Atlanta video gamer, high school security guard, and aspiring cop who's all talk. Upon getting accepted into the police academy, Ben thinks he's ready to propose to his live-in girlfriend Angela (Tika Sumpter), who's easily able to overlook his many obvious faults. Before popping the question, though, Ben asks for the blessing of Angela's protective older brother, vice squad detective James Payton (Cube, playing to his old pre-Are We There Yet? type). Still pissed about a barbecue incident that gave him third-degree burns, the dismissive James tries to scare Ben off from the force and from his sister by inviting him on a day-long ride along.

In "Ride Along", the eventful day of James Payton (Ice Cube) and Ben Barber (Kevin Hart) reaches new heights with a giant warehouse explosion.

James asks for all the "126s", the code assigned to annoying calls. The day begins with Ben having to confront loitering bikers for parking in handicapped spaces. It continues with a disgruntled man stripping down for a public meltdown that Ben is embarrassingly ill-equipped to handle. But, of course, it's not all fun and games for the badass veteran and the candy ass recruit. The two clashing personalities also find themselves in the center of a major investigation Ben has been immersed in for years, involving Omar (Laurence Fishburne), an elusive arms-dealing kingpin no one seems to have ever seen.

With a committee screenplay attributed to a quartet of writers with limited success among them (Clash of the Titans, Employee of the Month, "Childrens Hospital"), Ride Along shows almost no interest at all in surprising or subverting. It seems to take pleasure in falling in line completely with your modest expectations. Hart does his short motormouth shtick, while Ice Cube remains unamused with this punk he isn't about to let become his brother-in-law.

The comedy is far from fresh, but perfectly watchable most of the time. The action, which takes a backseat after the opening minutes' car chase and shootout, isn't really any better or worse. You'll figure out early on that the Omar case will feature heavily and will be revealed to involve unsuspected conspiracy. (The biggest surprise may be that one often-villainous actor isn't among those cops secretly in cahoots with the bad guys.)

Laurence Fishburne's appearance as elusive kingpin Omar might be a surprise if it wasn't preceded by an opening credit and a picture of him as a recognizable teenager. Ben (Kevin Hart) is shown little respect by this young playground interrogation suspect.

Ride Along opened in the middle of January, a month when no one expects new releases to be any good. Never quite making you queasy with the stench of overfamiliarity, this comedy is better than some early winter openings, to which Ice Cube is no stranger. The gangsta rapper turned actor, in the news this week for taking his MTV Movie Awards loss to Paul Walker far worse than he should, enjoys something of a rebound on this vehicle, the first hit he's headlined since Are Were There Yet? nine years ago.

Ride Along 2 has unimaginatively already been scheduled to open January 2016. You can't blame Universal for pursuing what appears to be a sure thing following a year when only one out of every four of the studio's movies generated fast,
obvious profit in theaters. Nor can you blame director Tim Story for staying onboard. He's had commercial success with these actors, from Cube's Barbershop to Hart's Think Like a Man. Since his two Fantastic Four movies didn't endear him to the comic book geek demographic or allow him to latch onto the ongoing superhero boom, Story's got to take what he can get and he could obviously be doing a lot worse than helming such films, some of the rare black productions to break through the "urban film" ceiling and seemingly connect with the mainstream.

Hart is clearly on the rise, though his colorful personality is the kind of thing to shorten a career. His increased exposure and limited range threaten to turn fans away from him unless he can slow down or mix things up. As is, many are currently onboard with him, valuing the unique comic voice that has distinguished him at a relatively young age after more than a decade in the business.

2014's first film to eclipse the $100 million mark, this comedy that generated little interest outside the US hit home video today in a DVD and the Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD UltraViolet combo pack reviewed here.

Ride Along: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD UltraViolet cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

2.40:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
BD: 5.1 DTS HD-MA (English), 5.1 DTS (Spanish) Dolby 2.0 (English DVS)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, Spanish), Dolby 2.0 (Descriptive Video Service)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish, French
Not Closed Captioned; Video Extras Subtitled
Release Date: April 15, 2014
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-50 & DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $34.98
Blue Keepcase in Embossed Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as standalone DVD ($29.98 SRP) and on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Plain comedies don't often display the greatest visual flair, but those adding action into the mix tend to aim a little higher. Ride Along looks great on Blu-ray, its 2.40:1 transfer boasting the sharpness and detail you expect of a 2014 film in 1080p. Apart from a single shot where I noticed focus was lacking, the picture is perfect. And yet, that picture doesn't impress to the degree of the forceful 5.1 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack, which grabs your attention at a number of places and sustains an exciting atmosphere of music and directional effects. Overall, the Blu-ray's superb presentation stands out even as great picture and sound has become the norm.

Ben (Kevin Hart) graduates from the Police Academy in this alternate ending. In the mostly thankless role that drives the plot, Tika Sumpter appears in this deleted scene.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The Blu-ray's all-HD bonus features begin with an alternate ending (1:46), set at Ben's police academy graduation rather than another family barbecue.

Six deleted scenes run 8 minutes and 23 seconds. They show us more of Dragos Bucur's Serbian character and ride along in addition to further setting up Ben's need for James' blessing.

An alternate take (1:38) shows us Kevin Hart tailoring one-sided phone call improvisation to meet a PG-13 rating, with harder profanity bleeped.

Ice Cube responds to a passerby's adoring scream in the "Ride Along" gag reel. Director Tim Story talks with his two leading men on the set of "Ride Along."

The obligatory gag reel (2:59) gives us behind-the-scenes looks at technical goofs,
actor small talk, and Ice Cube mispronunciations.

Kicking off a stretch of making-of featurettes, "It Was a Good Day - On the Set of Ride Along" (11:52) is all about Ice Cube and Kevin Hart's chemistry. It gives us plenty of looks behind the scenes of the filming of what is called "Training Day: The Comedy."

"Kev & Cube's Wild Ride" (5:16) feels like an extension of the previous piece, having the same interest in the pairing and the fun production environment it generates.

"You Gonna Learn Today" (4:39) showcases Kevin Hart and company's improvisation with clips and testimonials advocating the technique.

"Anatomy of the Big Blast" (4:50) lives up to its title with a look at the film's big warehouse explosion, an ambitious display of real pyrotechnics.

Ice Cube and his stunt double take direction on an action scene in "An Explosive Ride." Ride Along's theatrical one-sheet becomes its basic main menu image on DVD and Blu-ray.

"An Explosive Ride" (5:08) breaks down the film's action sequences with some acknowledgement of
stunt doubles and their work.

"Atlanta: The Character" (3:19) predictably celebrates the Georgia capital where the film was shot and is set.

Finally, we get an audio commentary by director Tim Story, which surprisingly proves to be a pretty good listen. Displaying far more excitement than you expect from such a seasoned filmmaker, Story keeps the solo track flowing with screen-specific observation and an absolute minimum of lulls. Though you wouldn't know it from his filmography to date, Story is something of an action movie aficionado and regularly acknowledges influences like 48 Hrs., Beverly Hills Cop and Lethal Weapon. He also discusses the movies that inspired his casting, the exemplary work of Kevin Hart's stunt double, and the fact that many viewers mistake Bruce McGill's character for being a villain. Clearly, the film's shortcomings are less the result of Story's inexperience than him apparent settling for derivation.

The same DVD sold on its own, the combo pack's second platter includes the gag reel, "It Was a Good Day", "Atlanta: The Character", and the commentary. It's filled near capacity with that, so one can't fault Universal greatly for snubbing DVD customers (though the dual-layered disc's compression must be pretty low to approach the limit with just that and a single cut of a 100-minute movie).

The discs open with trailers for Ronin 47, Endless Love, A Haunted House 2, The Nut Job, The BoxTrolls, and Lone Survivor, plus an anti-smoking ad only on Blu-ray. None of these are accessible by menu and Ride Along's own marketing is nowhere to be found here.

The basic menu attaches score to the poster art, made busier on Blu-ray by Universal's scrolling and graphic ads for other new and upcoming releases. The Blu-ray doesn't let you set bookmarks, but does give you the option to resume playback after enduring Universal's logo. It also extends Universal's uHear feature, allowing you to clarify a missed line with a single press of a button. Though it's not something you may use, it's a feature I'm surprised other studios haven't adopted.

An insert supplying your Digital HD UltraViolet code joins the two plainly-labeled discs inside the slipcovered keepcase.

The excitable Ben (Kevin Hart) gets placed in the back of James' (Ice Cube) car in "Ride Along."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

There's nothing really new or original about Ride Along, but this okay buddy comedy realizes its goals without bothering you in any way. Universal's combo pack delivers a first-rate feature presentation plus a good amount of bonus features including a surprisingly substantial director's audio commentary. It's not a set I can recommend, but if you really like the movie or think you will, then I also can't strongly discourage you from picking this up.

Buy Ride Along from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD UltraViolet / DVD / Instant Video

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Related Reviews:
Ice Cube: Barbershop: The Next Cut 21 Jump Street | Kevin Hart: Think Like a Man Death at a Funeral This Is the End
Hit Comedies: We're the Millers Due Date Identity Thief The Other Guys Date Night Paul Blart: Mall Cop
New: Grudge Match Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones Delivery Man Jim Gaffigan: Obsessed
Tika Sumpter: Sparkle | Laurence Fishburne: 21 Contagion John Leguizamo: The Happening | Bryan Callen: The Hangover
Directed by Tim Story: Fantastic Four Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

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Reviewed April 15, 2014.



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