January 17, 2014 at 1:00 am

Review: Only Hart is up to speed in 'Ride Along'

Ice Cube, left, plays a cop and comic Kevin Hart plays his future brother-in-law in 'Ride Along.' (Quantrell D. Colber / Universal)

Wiry comic Kevin Hart has been a rising star for years, and after a decade of small roles in films, he’s finally starting to break through as a movie star.

“Ride Along” won’t be the movie to get him there, but he makes the most of the mediocre material and uses it as a stepping stone to, hopefully, better things to come.

Hart plays Ben Barber, a clownish but well-meaning high school security guard who excels in the world of online video gaming (where he uses the handle “Black Hammer”). He’s looking to join the police academy and propose marriage to his girlfriend (Tika Sumpter), but her hard-nosed cop brother, James (Ice Cube, snarling), is standing in his way.

James offers Ben the chance to ride along with him one day, a set-up to give him various opportunities to make Ben look like a buffoon. Thankfully, as a performer, Hart has no problem sending himself up, and he’s at his best when talking tough and barking louder than his bite, which he’s able to do plenty here. A scene that unfolds at a gun range is a particular howler.

The rest of the movie is a wash of buddy cop clichés and double crosses that aren’t worth the cocktail napkin they were jotted on. But there’s something endearing about Hart and his eagerness to please; and Cube, all arched eyebrows and curled lip, is a good foil for him.

Director Tim Story, who also worked with Hart in “Think Like a Man” (and the upcoming “Think Like a Man Too”) clearly believes in the comic and his potential. It’s there in “Ride Along,” but otherwise it’s best to wait for the next ride to come along.

'Ride Along'

GRADE: C

Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence, sexual content and brief strong language

Running time: 100 minutes

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