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Entries in think like a man (2)


Ride Along

I heard a radio spot on my drive to the screening for “Ride Along” that spoke quite highly of it, in which it called star Kevin Hart the funniest man in America and the film itself as “the first great comedy of the year.” “Who said these things,” I wondered, before realizing that the quotes weren’t actually attributed to anyone. In television commercials, studios use quick blurbs from critics that inflate the film in an effort to get people to go see it. It was a smart move to use the same tactic on the radio, because unassuming listeners will assume the quote is lifted from a professional and not simply said by a paid announcer. I imagine this kind of deception is the only way they’ll be able to get people to see “Ride Along” because, despite a couple of legitimate laughs, it’s largely unwatchable.

Hart plays Ben, an aspiring police officer who corresponds actual police work with his first person shooter video games. He is in love with Angela (Tika Sumpter) and wishes to marry her, but to do that, he needs the approval of the only other man in her life, her intimidating, hard boiled brother, James (Ice Cube). James doesn’t like Ben and doesn’t consider him a good fit for his sister, much less a potential member of his police squad. However, Ben wants to show James that he’s a man, so James, under the ruse of giving him a chance, offers to give him a ride along. For a full day, Ben will head out with James on his police duties and James plans to make it as uncomfortable as possible to deter him from both marrying his sister and entering the police force.

Upon first impression, it’s clear that “Ride Along” is going to be a visually ugly movie. Its drab colors, no doubt increased by the desire to be satirical of “gritty” buddy cop crime dramas, pervade the screen. Its shot composition is equally unpleasing to the eye, with close-ups even extreme close-ups would consider a bit much and framing so bad it’s hard to actually read the narratively important letter the film lingers on in close-up.

But these issues are minor when in a comedy. Comedies only need to be funny. A weak story and poor visuals don’t carry much weight when you’re laughing hysterically. Unfortunately, “Ride Along” musters up only a few laughs in its 100 minute runtime. Hart, while okay in small bursts or as a supporting character (like in 2012’s surprisingly good “Think Like a Man”), is grating in long stretches. Like a miniaturized Chris Tucker, he equates comedy to spastic mannerisms and furiously fast talking. When not restrained, he overdoes this and “Ride Along” is anything but restrained.

When he’s called on for physical comedy, he’s equally bad and overacts to an absurd degree. But the real problem this film faces is that its jokes are tired and obvious. It’s easy to spot these jokes coming well before they actually appears, like when Ben is blown back by the recoil of a shotgun that is about the size of one of his legs. In a sense, Kevin Hart is treated like a reverse Kevin James, the latter always abused because of his large weight and the former treated like a feather in the wind.

The story also lacks the satirical bite it occasionally tries to capture, often succumbing to the very things it mocks. When James is laid into by the police chief for being reckless, it’s not played tongue-in-cheek as it should be; it’s taken grossly seriously. Similarly, the twist (spoiler alert!) is your typical double agent twist that is painfully clear the moment you see the person or persons in question near the beginning of the film. When you factor in the desperate dialogue that tries so hard to throw you off the scent that it ends up doing the exact opposite—the double agent(s) repeatedly tell James he should give up the investigation for a variety of reasons—the movie becomes nothing more than another disastrous January turd. If you want to see a good buddy cop satire, watch “21 Jump Street.” You won’t find much value in “Ride Along.”

Ride Along receives 1/5


Think Like a Man

Love is a game, like it or not. Some are good at playing it and some aren’t. The most attractive guy in the world will find himself being continually shot down if he doesn’t know what moves to make, what words to say and what actions to take. This game has been explored in countless movies, but rarely have they been as funny as Think Like a Man. Although it’s less dramatically effective than something like the similar ensemble picture from a few years back, He’s Just Not That Into You, its laughs make up for it.

The film opens describing in detail the different types of guys, all of whom are represented onscreen. There’s “the player,” Zeke (Romany Malco), “the mama’s boy,” Michael (Terrence Jenkins), “the dreamer,” Dominic (Michael Ealy), “the non-committer,” Jeremy (Jerry Ferrara), “the happily married man,” Bennett (Gary Owen) and “the happier divorced guy,” Cedric (Kevin Hart). They’re best buddies who like to play basketball together and talk about their sexual escapades and they’ve got it made. They consider themselves in control of their relationships, allowing them to stay contently where they are. However, their significant others, played by a host of talented actresses, including Meagan Good, Regina Hall, Taraji P. Henson and Gabrielle Union, are about to discover a new book written by Steve Harvey titled “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man” that teaches them a few things about the male mindset, allowing them to steal that control from their men.

Now, it must be said, the book itself is not a made-up thing—it’s actually real—and the tactics the characters in the movie use come straight out of it. In a very real sense, Think Like a Man is a shameless, extended plug for Steve Harvey’s book. At times, the characters come off like the ladies on “The Price is Right,” as they pull it out and present it front and center to the audience. The dialogue even consists of the characters discussing how useful and effective the book is while the one non-believer in the film is quickly converted to its cause. The film itself could be described as an infomercial, not one that plays in the middle of the night that nobody watches, but one that you actually have to pay to see.

Its intentions are hazy, but the film isn’t sloppily thrown together, but rather accurately portrays male relationships and the mentality behind them. All of the men approach relationships and sex a different way, some advocating lying to get into bed with a pretty girl while others advise sticking to the truth. Some characters are more likable than others when comparing their (sometimes dirty) methods to get women, but then again, so are actual people. Although certainly exaggerated, the men’s different states of mind are truthful to real life. To a certain extent, every guy who watches this movie will see a part of themselves in one of these men.

Think Like a Man, as one might expect, is overly cheesy at times and with a runtime that clocks in at over two hours, it’s far too long, but it’s biggest problem comes from its ending where everything is wrapped up in a nice little bow. Given the spectrum of problems that arise throughout the film in every portrayed relationship, many of the outcomes presented are highly unlikely. It treats the game men and women play with each other scrupulously, but treats love itself like a fairy tale, where insurmountable problems don’t exist and happy endings are inevitable. It gets the game right, but the outcome of that game dead wrong.

Nevertheless, Think Like a Man works, largely thanks to some clever writing, a (mostly) likable cast and a homerun comedic performance from Kevin Hart, who always manages to pick the film up right when it looks like it’s about to fail. He gives it his all and earns most of the chuckles he receives. It’s not as charming as He’s Just Not That Into You and not as profound as something like Love Actually, but Think Like a Man understands how men think and, on a more basic level, is just plain funny.

Think Like a Man receives 3.5/5