Over the past 10 years, Kevin Hart has gone from a New York staple in the comedy world, part of Colin Quinn’s infamous table at the Comedy Cellar, to become a household name around the globe. Now, in Ride Along, which releases nationwide January 14, 2014, Hart once again finds himself in the hands of Think Like a Man director Tim Story and producer Will Packer. This time, however, Hart’s enthusiastic energy has been partnered with one of the best straight man in the comedy world, Ice Cube.
Screen Rant traveled to Atlanta to visit the set of the buddy copy movie Ride Along, to not only see if lightening really can strike twice for Hart, Story and Pack (in two separate franchises, no less), but to see how Hollywood’s most underrated comedy producer, Ice Cube, handles the mile-a-minute comedy superstar whose profile only continues to rise.
Angela James (Tika Sumpter) and Ben Barber (Kevin Hart)
The plot of Ride Along is this, essentially: Hart plays Ben Barber, a high school security guard, who joins the Atlanta Police Academy in hopes of impressing his girlfriend Angela’s (Tika Sumpter) brother, Detective James (Ice Cube), enough for James to give Ben his blessing to marry Angela. But James has other plans for Ben and, instead, offers to take him on a ride along, so he can prove himself, in the field, with real criminals. John Leguizamo and Bryan Callen also star, as partners working in the same precinct as James.
“First of all,” Hart says, “this is a modernized version of what those [buddy cop movies] where, and I think now, in our time frame… this type of movie is missing; you know what I mean? I think literally what me and Cube have found is a way to do it and be funny, but at the same time, tell a real story, and not be too commercial with it, but make a comedy that is a comedy. “…Our movie is ten times funnier than Training Day,” adds Cube, laughing. “I’m gonna let you know that; you know what I’m saying?”
From Video Village – an open tent with chairs, monitors showing each camera angle and headphones to listen to the audio – we watched at as the core cast – Ice Cube, Kevin Hart, Tika Sumpter, John Leguizamo and Bryan Callen – film a pivotal scene from the third act of the movie. In the scene (barring any major spoilers), Hart attempts to surreptitiously enter a house that has been taken over by the criminal mastermind of the film (who is played by an extremely-well known yet to be announced). Unfortunately, or hilariously, Hart’s character Ben has been drugged, and he takes it upon himself to kick things off by jumping through a living room window, alone, ready for a fight.
Ben (Hart) and James (Cube)
In most comedies – unlike Training Day – the third act is really only used to help tie up the actual story at hand, than to highlight the most comedic moments of the film. What’s most surprising, though, is that lines being delivered are as strong as the first act of most comedies. More importantly, though, through Harts energetic, yet hilarious, performance, he is able to ground the scene in comedy while also making it feel real enough that you are earnestly interested in seeing how the film ends. (There aren’t many comedies which can say the same.)
Training Day is its own thing, but we took heart from that, and then the funny we kind of created out of these situations,” notes Cube. “Now I gotta tiptoe; I gotta dance. So, you borrow what’s good – but we [were] watching Midnight Run, too. It’s a lot of great comedy, and it’s a lot of What About Bob? kind of stuff in this, too, because Kevin is annoying; you know what I mean? You wanna just fly swat him; you know what I’m saying? Because he just knows how to take me from being the coolest cop in the room to wanting to choke him. He gets you there. So, it’s a little bit out of all these movies – but better – because it’s all wrapped up into one.”
Check out more photos from Ride Along below:
“It’s impossible not to think about what’s been done or who’s been in the realms of films like this before you,” adds Hart. “You think of Eddie Murphy in 48 Hrs; you think of Martin [Lawrence] in Bad Boys; you think Chris Tucker; and these guys all were all able to be themselves and put themselves in that fish out of water environment but be believable – but I think that’s what’s important when you do these films. It’s not about just being funny; it’s about being funny in a real life situation, so people can believe that you’re actually that guy. So for me, pulling from Murphy and Rock and all these guys that we just went through is definitely a huge aspect of acting.”
With a script originally penned by Sorority Boys writer Greg Collidge and The League’s Jason Mantzoukas (Raffi), Ride Along began its journey into production with an impressive amount of talent already behind it. After Cube, Story and Packer came on board, aspects of the script were tweaked to better fit their vision for the film. With an impressive number of successfully produced comedies under his belt, the past has proven that Cube’s “tweaking” may very well be his secret to comedy gold.
“It’s just straight man, funny man stuff,” Cube says, nonchalantly. “You just stay in your lane. You get somebody that’s extremely talented and just do the dance, and have fun, and make sure the set is lively. You guys are here on the action day but, usually, everybody’s running around here laughing, and Kevin is cracking jokes, fucking with people all the time. I think that atmosphere spills onto the screen, and we’re having a lot of fun. I believe we’ve done it again, and that’s a beautiful feeling. Even though we in the fourth quarter, we gotta finish strong. But we got a lot of funny shit in the can – a lot!”
Though it’s true that we were there for an “action day”, the crew didn’t want us go home without seeing a bit of what was already shot. So, after a bit of searching, someone found and cued up a highlight reel for us to watch, which largely consisted of extended versions of the scenes you’ll find in the first trailer (below). All in all, it appears that Cube’s acknowledgment of it just being “straight man, funny man stuff” may be a bit of an understatement.
In Hart’s past films, such as Think Like a Man, or even Death at a Funeral, he has already proven that he can steal a scene on his own with but a look and/or witty remark. In Ride Along, however, Hart’s performance appears to be strengthened by Ice Cube’s presence on-screen, allowing him to reach a new level in his career because now, well, he now has a partner – a comedy partner. Though Cube’s straight man demeanor, he’s able to tether Hart’s over-the-top, hilarious hi-jinks to the story at hand, by helping drive the thru-line of the two actually being a part of a working police force, helping to make sure that Hart’s performance never outstays its welcome.
“Well for me… there’s definitely a line,” says Hart of his on-screen persona. ”Like I said, the thing you want to maintain is a sense of believably. You know, you don’t want to go too far to where it’s a cartoon – and to know you’re doing slapstick, and it’s, oh God, it’s too far – it’s too much – or your eyes are just bulging, and it makes no sense. So for me there’s a fine line not to cross, and I think that’s where a lot of my comedy comes in, and I think that’s why my fan base has grown, because regardless of what I’m talking about, people believe it and you [say], ‘Okay, I can put myself in that situation and see how this would happen.’ And working with Tim Story and Will Packer, I think we’ve done a great job of keeping me in that believable realm of acting, so I definitely don’t want to go too far, so we put limits on it.
As to whether or Ride Along will become the next bit comedy franchise, Ice Cube already knows where he stands: “Hell yeah – it better! If not, we didn’t do a good job.”
You can check out the first trailer for Ride Along below:
Ride Along releases nationwide, January 14, 2014.