Courtesy of Universal Pictures
Courtesy of Universal Pictures

The transition from successful comedian to movie star is a difficult feat. What used to be a shoo-in for superstardom is now something that makes or breaks your career, as many comedians have tried to make the giant step to film, but ultimately failed. Coming off the success of his groundbreaking stand-up shows “Let Me Explain” (2013) and “Laugh At My Pain” (2011), Kevin Hart is the next comedian to try to make the transition from comedian to actor. Hart has already had some positive success as an actor, with a movie-stealing supporting role in the successful film “Think Like A Man,” but has yet to cement his spot as a leading role. Hart’s latest film “Ride Along” — although empty of a main plot and altogether predictable — helps solidify the talented entertainer’s transition from successful comedian to all-around superstar.

“Ride Along” centers around Ben Barber (Kevin Hart), a school security guard and police academy hopeful who doesn’t tend to take anything seriously besides his video games and fiance Angela Payton (Tika Sumpter). Before the couple can marry, Ben must earn Angela’s hand in marriage from her older brother, police officer James Payton (Ice Cube). To earn James’ respect, Ben agrees to go on a ride-along with James, and from there they encounter a day filled with comical situations and danger-filled action sequences.

The archetype for “Ride Along” is one that has been repeated by Hollywood many times: a buddy cop comedy with lots of laughs but no real substance as a movie. This film is no different. Loosely held together by a barely-there plot, the majority of the film involves Ben and James traveling around town. James places Ben into humorous situations in the hopes that Barber will give up on his quest to earn his respect. The story remains stagnant for most of the film and fails to pick up until the very end, when one of the calls James and Ben respond to connects to a case James had been working on.

“Ride Along” isn’t a groundbreaking film or anything close to it, but rather an outlet for Hart’s comedic genius. On this notion, “Ride Along” fully delivers as a movie, as Hart’s comedic presence carries the film throughout its on-the-nose storyline. He embraces his character’s weak and overconfident personality and uses it to take his comedy to the next level. Hart is known for his talented stand-up, but in “Ride Along,” he pulls out every trick in his bag, utilizing his comedic genius, character’s personality and body language to maximize laughs in every situation. One scene that demonstrates Hart’s comedic genius is his impersonation of an arms dealer named Omar to save James. The diminutive Ben’s representation of the 6-foot Omar is so far-fetched that it leaves viewers in a state of constant laughter.

With cop comedies like “Ride Along,” action scenes and explosions are already a given, but instead of following conventions, “Ride Along” does a good job of saving its action and explosions for necessary scenes. Hart and Ice Cube succeed in keeping action sequences serious, but hilarious. This is apparent during the last call James and Ben respond to; while James realizes the call’s seriousness, Ben’s ineptitude leads him to believe the situation is all made up, which leads to some very hysterical back-and-forth banter between Ben and the suspects. Ice Cube and Hart execute their roles of a street-hardened cop and an incompetent security guard perfectly, which makes for many more compelling and hilarious action scenes.

“Ride Along” is not a brilliant film, nor is it different from any other cop comedy. Instead, it is a platform that will help cement Hart’s status as a leading man. As long as you don’t expect a compelling plot, “Ride Along” is a film that fans of Kevin Hart’s comedy and anyone who is looking for laugh will enjoy thoroughly.

Rating: 3 stars