'Ride Along' (R)

Kevin Hart’s mouth is the sole reason for the existence of the by-the-numbers buddy comedy Ride Along, which rises and falls on the strength of his chattery comic delivery.

Unfortunately, there’s more falling than rising, though that’s not all Hart’s fault. He’s undoubtedly a funny guy, but he can’t quite carry an entire feature film. He’s better in smaller doses (watch his hilarious performance in the ensemble comedy Think Like a Man and see if you don’t agree).

In Ride Along, his schtick gets more camera time, and it wears thin much less quickly than you might think. But it’s the only foundation propping up the movie, which is delivered with all the subtlety of a motorcycle crashing through a plate-glass window or a truck flying through the flames of an explosion (both of these things actually happen in the film’s opening sequence, but you are welcome to pick any of the other action movie cliches herein to illustrate my point).

Hart plays school security guard Ben, a gamer who has decided to translate his skills at shooting digital bad guys in Fallujah to a paying job. He has been accepted at the police academy in Atlanta and hopes to become a cop and then propose to his live-in girlfriend Angela (Tika Sumpter, in the traditionally thankless role). The problem? Her brother James (Ice Cube) is a detective — a no-nonsense, bad team member, I-don’t-play-by-the-rules sort of detective, if you can imagine such a thing — and he doesn’t approve of Ben, who badly wants his blessing. James has no intention of bestowing it and hits on a perfect way to punish Ben and maybe even make him rethink his choice of career: Invite him along for a day on the job, set up several scenarios that will make Ben look like an idiot and hope he shuts up once and for all.

Ben doesn’t shut up, of course, and there’s some fun to be had watching Hart try to solve every problem on the street by jabbering at it. Watching him attempt to fire a shotgun at a shooting range is amusing, too, even though you know exactly what will happen. But the film also sets up a dull, convoluted plot about James trying to solve a case involving Serbians and arms dealing and a mysterious criminal mastermind named Omar who has plans to take over the city (or something), which undermines the breezy tone in which Hart operates best. Thus Ride Along sabotages itself, although I suppose that doesn’t really matter — there are already plans in the works for Ride Along 2. But trust me, you want to proceed with caution.

Cast: Kevin Hart, Ice Cube, Tika Sumpter, John Leguizamo, Laurence Fishburne.
Director: Tim Story.
Screenwriters: Greg Coolidge, Jason Mantzoukas, Phil Hay, Matt Manfredi.
Producers: Matt Alvarez, Ice Cube, William Packer.
A Universal Pictures release. Running time: 100 minutes. Sequences of violence, sexual content and brief strong language. Playing at area theaters.