Ride Along (12A)
Running time: 100 minutes
Starring: Ice Cube, Kevin Hart, Tika Sumpter, John Leguizamo, Bryan Callen, Bruce McGill, Dragos Bucur, Laurence Fishburne.
Director: Tim Story
Released: February 28 (UK & Ireland)
THESE are golden times for stand-up comedian Kevin Hart.
His most recent tour, Laugh At My Pain, and the TV special Let Me Explain were hugely popular and a 30-minute pilot television based around Hart's high-energy act is currently in production.
He also currently has two films raking in the dollars at the American box office including this mismatched buddy comedy.
It's difficult to see what the fuss is about. Neither as hilarious as it should be, nor as thrilling as it could be, Ride Along shifts lazily through the gears as its protagonists clash during a 24-hour police patrol of Atlanta and unwittingly stumble into a far bigger case involving a shadowy criminal mastermind.
Story's film has echoes of last summer's riotous romp, The Heat, starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy, albeit without the belly laughs or winning screen chemistry between the leads.
The script boasts a couple of arresting one-liners and some slick action set pieces but we've screeched down these mean streets countless times before. And with a sequel to Ride Along already in the pipeline, it seems we're doomed to suffer the blare of police sirens once again next year.
High school security guard Ben Barber (Kevin Hart) is a videogame junkie, who has been romancing his girlfriend Angela (Tika Sumpter) for two years.
Her brother James (Ice Cube) is a highly decorated detective in the Atlanta Police Department, who thinks Ben is unworthy of Angela's affections, which throws a spanner in the works of Ben's intention to propose.
"I need [James] to be on board," Angela tells her beau. "You two are the most important men in the world."
In order to prove himself, Ben applies to join the police academy and against the odds, he is accepted.
Unfortunately, James is unimpressed and derides Ben as "a chromosome away from being a midget" to his detective buddies, Santiago (John Leguizamo) and Miggs (Bryan Callen).
James concocts a cunning plan to get Ben out of his life forever: he invites the unsuspecting rookie along on a 24-hour patrol of the city with the intention of throwing his partner into explosive situations that will end in humiliation.
The plan works a treat, until Ben's nerdy video-game knowledge uncovers a clue that could lead to most notorious criminal in Atlanta.
Ride Along knows its audience and panders to them, allowing Hart to riff and wise-crack while Ice Cube rolls his eyes and gets on with the serious business of solving the case.
The 100-minute running time drags and the resolution to the animosity between the two men strains credibility.
Yet both actors possess a certain rough charm despite the weak material, and the final shootout is blessed with a cameo from a well-known star as the enigmatic Omar.