Making the Grades
For one brief moment in Ride Along I thought this movie was going to surprise me. Yes, it’s a buddy cop movie and (no surprise) there are two men with very different perspectives who are eventually stuck together in a police car.
Ben (Kevin Hart) is a high school security guard by day. In the evening he’s a video game junkie fighting a virtual war in Afghanistan. Unthinkingly, he can ignore his model-perfect, live-in girlfriend Angela (Tika Sumpter) wearing only a silk pajama top standing next to his 60-inch flat screen TV. Yet somehow this joystick commando manages to get a shot at his dream job when he is accepted as a trainee in the Atlanta police force.
James Payton (Ice Cube), an Atlanta officer, is a tough, my-way-or-else kind of cop. With his cohorts Santiago and Miggs (John Leguizamo and Bryan Callen), he is trying his best to crack a big arms deal. But when James discovers Ben could soon be a part of Atlanta’s finest, it becomes one more reason for James to dislike the guy who also happens to be his sister Angela’s boyfriend.
Now, with his letter of acceptance in hand, the wisecracking Ben whines, pleads and demands respect—all without taking a breath. To appease his determination to prove himself, big brother James agrees to a “ride along” for one day so that Ben can see that, in reality, violence is not a game. He also agrees that if Ben can prove his ability to handle whatever the day throws at him James will grant his blessing on the plan for Ben to marry Angela.
That’s when my hopes began to kindle. There, sitting in my seat, eager to embrace one of the first new films of 2014, my mind began to believe the team of writers who penned this script were going to create a profound message about the fallacies of virtual violence and contrast them to the reality of the work-a-day life of an Atlanta cop. And this thoughtful lesson was to be delivered by none other than… Ice Cube?
Bullets, bombs, bad guys and big-busted babes provide the eye-candy that fuels most of the action in this movie. At least a dozen unimportant characters are shot, while those with speaking parts usually have the incredible gift of taking the bullet to the shoulder or leg and still keep walking and fighting. Parents willing to consider this movie for teen viewing will also need to factor in frequent sexual discussions during the opening act that include crude and anatomical terms, along with dozens of profanities and a sexual expletive.
By the halfway point, with guns still blasting, strippers cowering (yes, one of the many situations they must deal with during the day involves two armed men in a nightclub full of bikini-clad women) and Ben’s video game “skills” suddenly providing clues in the big case, I’m beginning to sense the blitheness of my optimism. No, there aren’t going to be any pleasant surprises on this script. What messages are presented support the notion that valuable knowledge can result from a video game obsession. By the time the credits roll, this Ride Along arrives at the conclusion you would expect from a buddy cop movie starring a former musician controversially known for his violent lyrics.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Ride Along.
Do you think violent video games can affect the way a person reacts to actual violent situations? In this movie Ben, who plays violent games, is often overcome with fear when facing actual violent situations. Do you think that’s an accurate depiction? If you have seen the movie, do you think Ben’s actions in the final scene are consistent with his earlier reactions?