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RoboCop •••

MV5BMjAyOTUzMTcxN15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjkyOTc1MDE@._V1_SX214_Starring: Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton
Director: José Padilha
Screenplay: Joshua Zetumer
Action/Crime/Sci-Fi, Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 117 minutes
Release Date: February 12, 2014
Murphy/Robocop: Single, N-P Emotional/Physical, Pro (Enlightened Lone Hero)
Sellars: Single, N-NN Moral, Ant (Irredeemable Mastermind Villain)


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Scott, it’s time for a movie about an Irish policeman: Rob O’Cop.

(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)

And in the tradition of Madonna and Prince, he became known simply as RoboCop. That’s our story and we’re sticking to it.

It’s the year 2028 and America is in a war with Iran. They clean the streets with Omnicorp’s mechanized military. But back in America, such “drones” are illegal. Evil corporate genius Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) wants desperately to sell his robot soldier technology to police forces in the US but the Dreyfus Act forbids the use of such tech on the homeland. So, he gets the great idea of putting a live cop inside one of his robots, but finding an appropriately disembodied psychologically ready cop turns out to be harder than he thought.

A Detroit cop named Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) is horribly maimed by a car bomb outside his home, and Sellars convinces Dr. Norton (Gary Oldman) to fit Alex with a robot exoskeleton. Sellars’ hope is that the public will feel more comfortable approving of robots with a human face. At first, Murphy is horrified by his new mechanical appearance, but soon he agrees to fight crime as Detroit’s first robocop. He’s an instant success, but trouble looms with technological glitches and bad guys lurking all around him.

Scott, this is a remake of the 1987 movie of the same name. And it gets the full treatment. The graphics and animation are impeccable as we witness high speed chases and shootouts with an army of competitor robots. Robocop is a well-made action adventure.

Robocop wants to deal with the thorny issue of man versus machine. It offers us Raymond Sellars as a sort of Steve Jobs with no social conscience (he even utters the line, “How does somebody know what they want if they haven’t even seen it?” which Jobs is famous for). Sellars doesn’t care about the ethical issues surrounding turning the police force over to machines who cannot feel. In fact, he argues, it’s better if the robot cannot feel because it increases reaction times. No fear, no hesitation.

Robocop is derived from a long line of science fiction stories featuring the blending of human flesh with technological implants. We saw it decades ago in The Six Million Dollar Man TV show. The Star Trek franchise ran with it in their creation of the arch villain Borg, as did the Total Recall movies. We see most recently in the Iron Man movie franchise, and now we see it here with Robocop.

In some ways Robocop also reminds me of Frankenstein. A “freak” is created from various parts and then is set loose, only to go out of control and eventually become intent on destroying its maker. But Robocop separates itself from all the modern incarnations of man-machines by emphasizing the humanity of the hero, a feat seen only in the original Frankenstein. Somehow, Murphy’s human, soulful essence is able to overcome the technological mutilation of his brain.

Alex Murphy (aka Robocop) stacks up pretty well as a hero. He starts out as a compassionate and caring father to his son and a good husband to his wife. He’s a dedicated cop on the trail of a bad guy named Antoine Vallon who is dealing in illegal drugs and guns. But when he gets too close Vallon has Murphy targeted resulting in the car bombing. This attack on Murphy makes us feel sympathy for him. Once inside the Robocop suit, Murphy wrestles with the fact that he’s forever trapped as a part man / part machine. We’re given a hero with both a sincere pain and eventually a desire for revenge.

I agree, Greg. Alex Murphy is a worthy hero in this movie. He is certainly cast into a dark, dangerous world and must grow to heroic lengths to overcome daunting forces seemingly beyond his control. One complaint I have is that only by invoking mysterious forces is Murphy able to claw his way out of Dr. Norton’s programming. It would have been a more effective hero story if we, the audience, were made explicitly privy to how this transformation takes place. Yes, we can say that his humanity rose above his implants, but this very important part of the story needs some fleshing out (pardon the pun).

As befitting any good hero tale, there are nice supporting allies for Murphy, too. His wife (Abbie Cornish) and child (John Paul Ruttan) are both supportive yet skeptical about Murphy’s new role as a Detroit robocop. His police partner Jack (Michael K. Williams) is a supportive sidekick. Then there is Dr. Norton, who appears to be an ally but we’re never really sure until late in the game. Gary Oldman as Norton does a masterful job of straddling the line between hero and villain in this story.

We’re dealt a pair of villains in this story. The first is a classic bad guy: Antoine Vallon. He’s a very generic dealer in contraband. There isn’t much for us to analyze here. He’s just a bad guy for Robocop to attempt to bring down.

Only slightly more interesting is Michael Keaton’s Sellars character. As I mentioned earlier, he is cut from the same cloth as other corporate geniuses. And like so many other corporate geniuses we see in the movies all he cares about is making a buck. He’ll do anything to improve his bottom line. And that includes threatening innocent women and children. Heck, I was expecting him to kick a dog at one point just to show how mean he was. Keaton gives it his best, but Sellars doesn’t offer us much to really dislike in this film.

I thought that Keaton did a terrific job in his role as the main villain of this story, Greg. He pursued his greedy quest in a most cunning and ruthless fashion, and he did it with style and pizzazz. I agree that Vallon was a fairly useless cardboard villain, but Norton, the corrupt cops, and police chief were all effective in their villainous roles. Overall, the main thrust of the story is Murphy’s journey as the robocop, and so I was impressed that Sellars’ character enjoyed as much development as he did.

Robocop is a pretty good action/adventure with plenty of chases and gun play. I’m sure there will be a video game out soon where we can all live vicariously through Robocop’s exploits. For an entertaining and well-crafted 2-hour flick I award Robocop 3 out of 5 Reels. To get a higher rating I would want more character development for Murphy and supporting characters.

Alex Murphy / Robocop is a fine example of mythical heroes. He starts out as a virtuous man who dies and is resurrected as a more powerful man. We can all feel his loss, pain, and angst. In the end he exacts his revenge and sets things right. I give Murphy 3 Heroes out of 5.

As we’ve already agreed Vallon is a stock character and doesn’t really warrant a score of his own. Sellars was played well by Keaton but I thought he lacked any development. We’re just given a typical Hollywood greedy corporate head with ambitions of more wealth. I give him a score of 3 out of 5 Villains.

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I enjoyed Robocop, largely because its human elements and storytelling detail allowed it to rise above its appearance as a mindless action flick. In addition, the film raises a philosophical point about the integration of men and machines, as well as the issue of how far we should go to preserve a human life. I agree with you, Greg, that Murphy was a worthy hero but he wasn’t a character with a lot of depth. That limits my rating of the movie to 3 Reels out of 5.

Robocop does feature a nicely done hero story. Murphy’s journey has many of the classic elements, but as noted above, his character doesn’t have the flair or magnetism that I like to see in a hero. For that reason I’ll limit my heroes rating to 3 Heroes out of 5.

I was impressed by Keaton’s performance here, Greg, probably more than you were. Sellars’ obsession with greed and his manipulation of Norton, of public opinion, and of Murphy were a joy to watch. This is a villain that we love to hate. And we never did discuss Samuel L. Jackson as Pat Novak, a sort-of villain whose extreme viewpoints mixed with disingenuous showmanship made me want to vomit. Any villain who is vomit-worthy is worth 4 Villains out of 5.

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The Monuments Men •••

The_Monuments_Men_posterStarring: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray
Director: George Clooney
Screenplay: George Clooney, Grant Heslov
Action/Biography/Drama, Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 118 minutes
Release Date: February 7, 2014
Monuments Men: Ensemble, P-P Moral, Pro (Untransformed Military Heroes)
Nazis: System, N-N Moral, Ant (Untransformed Military System Villains)


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(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)

Greg, it’s time to review The Monuments Men starring George Clooney, who also wrote and directed the film.

It wasn’t a monumental film but I enjoyed myself. Let’s recap.

The year is 1944. The second world war is nearing an end as Allied troops close in on Hitler’s German forces. As European cities are being reduced to rubble, an American museum curator named Frank Stokes (George Clooney) is concerned about the safety of all the priceless works of art in Europe. These paintings and statues are at risk of being destroyed or stolen by either the Nazis or the Russians.

Stokes needs help and he knows who he wants with him. So, in a scene reminiscent of The Dirty Dozen he travels around the art community picking up six old friends (and I do mean old). Richard Campbell (Bill Murray), Walter Garfield (John Goodman), Donald Jeffries (Hugh Bonneville) and Preston Savitz (Bob Balaban) join Stokes along with younger men James Granger (Matt Damon) and Frenchman Jean Claude Clermont (Jean Dujardin).

They are all civilians and so must endure a comical bout of basic training. Once they are on their way, they are met with resistance from men on the front lines. Stokes tries to dissuade allied commanders from bombing priceless buildings only to meet resistance in the face of saving art over saving lives.

Greg, The Monuments Men is a pretty good movie that means well. But it fell far short of what it could have been, especially given that the movie assembled such a luminary cast. In fact, that star-studded cast may have been the albatross that weighed the film down (to mix metaphors). When I see George Clooney, Bill Murray, and John Goodman on the screen, I see those actors rather than the characters they are playing. The Butler made the same mistake last year. One or two mega-stars is fine, but having superstar actors in every scene is unnecessary and distracting. Why not find some lesser known quality actors to play a few of these roles?

A second problem the movie suffers from is predictability. There is a scene in The Monuments Men where John Goodman gets shot at from a window in an abandoned building. There is tension: who could be this mystery shooter? No one should be surprised that it ends up being a child. And of course we know that the film must conclude with the men finding the prized Madonna of Bruges statue. There are other issues, too, but before I go on I want to hear you weigh in here, Greg.

I found Monuments Men to be a light (if not light hearted) World War II era film about a subject that had gone unnoticed until now – Hitler’s obsession with art. As the Germans invaded city after city, they rounded up all the art (and gold) they could find. The tension in this film is created by a deadline. With the allies closing in on Berlin, Hitler has given an order to destroy all the art rather than leave it to the Russians or Americans.

I bought into this story, Scott. I didn’t expect a lot of character acting. I was satisfied to watch the heroes in this story figure out where the stolen art was being kept and race to find it before the Germans turned it to ash. The lighter moments of the film were offset by some more dramatic moments. While there were few very high or very low points, I got the message: people come and go, but our art tells the story of civilization and it is worth our lives to protect it.

To me, that message was communicated somewhat poorly, Greg. In the middle of the movie, George Clooney’s character gives a rousing speech that says, essentially, that whereas human lives are temporary, art is forever. That sounds noble, but his speech also implies that human lives are expendable in the effort to preserve paintings – a not so noble belief. Bottom line is that characters in this movie willingly die in the service of preserving artwork, and I can (grudgingly) accept this loss of life because it was their choice. But one gets the sense that Clooney (and the movie) are telling us that any lives are worth risking to preserve artwork, including the lives of civilians who certainly aren’t freely choosing to risk themselves.

The fourth and final issue I had was that the heroes in the movie don’t grow. Good hero stories show us how heroes become transformed. But these monuments men show a selfless courage from the beginning of the movie to the very end. I have the same problem with the character of Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games, who also shows heroic qualities from beginning to end and never grows. Yes, the characters in The Monuments Men are heroes but we, the audience, are most satisfied when we see heroes undergo significant change and evolution. This just doesn’t happen in this film.

I didn’t get that message from the movie. I don’t recall any civilian loss of life in the efforts to save the lost art. The message I got was that these men were so committed to preserving our (combined) heritage that *they* were willing to risk, and in some cases give, their lives. It was both noble and heroic.

And the orders to save this art came from on high. Truman himself signed the orders and that makes him a hero, too. As we’ve seen before, heroes don’t always transform (themselves or others). Sometimes they perform a selfless act and that alone is enough to earn them the badge of honor. In this case, six men who had nothing to gain from their acts risked their lives for an ideal. Monuments Men did a good job of selling that ideal to me and I bought it whole.

The villains in this story are primarily the Germans and the Russians, both of whom want to steal artwork that belongs to others. The Germans especially are cast in an evil light because they prefer to destroy any priceless art that they can’t have for themselves. There are countless movies featuring Nazi Germany and Hitler as the villains, and their relentless bloodthirstiness never fails to stir us into hatred for them. But while they are effective villains in this movie, they aren’t terribly memorable or noteworthy in any way. The Monuments Men is first and foremost a film about the heroism of an ensemble of men who sacrifice themselves to improve and preserve humanity’s artistic contributions to the world. The German villains are largely window dressing whose main role is to challenge our heroes.

You’re right about that, Scott. Usually when you have an overwhelming enemy like the Nazis the director will pick one character to represent all of the evil-doers. This gives us one person to identify with as the villain. While there was one Nazi curator who ran off with a ton of art, we hardly see him after the first act. Then there was a scene where Stokes confronts a Nazi head of a concentration camp. But that was just a random bad guy. A good hero needs a good villain and Monuments Men failed to deliver.

I somewhat enjoyed The Monuments Men but was disappointed that it fell short of its potential. As I’ve noted, the film suffers from too many Hollywood legends in its cast, a tendency to be overly predictable, a somewhat confusing message about sacrificing lives for artwork, and a set of heroes who do not transform themselves during their hero journeys. The Monuments Men is a pretty good movie but certainly not a great one, and so I can only award it 3 Reels out of 5.

For reasons stated above, the heroes were clearly heroic but they didn’t inspire me with their growth as characters. Because their hero journeys were stunted, I can only give them 2 Heroes out of 5. The villains were certainly villainous — anyone who destroys priceless Picasso paintings merely because they can’t have them themselves is indeed dastardly and barbaric. But the individual villain characters are not developed at all and so the best I can do is award 2 Villains out of 5 for them.

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While I think I enjoyed Monuments Men more than you did, Scott, I give the film the same score. This was a movie that informed more than inspired and it did that fairly well. I didn’t know about Hitler’s zeal to keep the world’s art to himself. And I didn’t know about his desire to put it all into a single museum in the heart of Germany or how close we came to losing it all. I also give Monuments Men 3 out of 5 Reels.

I liked the heroes in this film but I agree they weren’t as strong as some other hero films we’ve reviewed. As you point out, there may have been too many stars in this one and not enough story to go around. There is a little bit of a redemption story for Hugh Bonneville’s character, but it seemed to be a side dish. And lest we forget the role played by Cate Blanchett as the secretary who kept an itemized list of all the art that went through her museum. The film is full of mini-heroes who just barely add up to 3 out of 5 Heroes.

And the villains: cardboard cutouts of movies gone by. Patently evil and uncaring. Dispicable in the face of their failures. There was no opposition here. I give them a blanket 1 Villain out of 5.

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Labor Day ••

Labor_Day_PosterStarring: Josh Brolin, Kate Winslet
Director: Jason Reitman
Screenplay: Jason Reitman
Drama, Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 111 minutes
Release Date: January 31, 2014
Frank: Single, N-P Emotional, Pro (Redeemed Lone Hero)
Cops: System, P-P Moral, Ant (Hidden Police Anti-Villain)


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Scott, it’s not quite summer but it is time to review Labor Day.

(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)

It’s never any labor to do a review with you, Greg!

It’s 1987 and we’re introduced to young Henry (Gattlin Griffith) who is about 12 years old. His father has left him and his mother Adele (Kate Winslet) for a younger woman. Adele is a recluse as she suffers from depression. She is afraid to go out in public wanting instead to stay home and avoid contact with the outside world. But occasionally she must venture out to do such things as buying new clothes for Henry as school starts in just a few days.

While at the local store, Henry is approached by a strange man named Frank (Josh Brolin) who firmly insists that he get a ride with Henry and Adele back to their house.

Adele and Henry bring Frank to their home, but they are clearly afraid of him and then discover that Frank is an escaped convicted murderer. But it soon becomes clear that Frank poses no threat to them and in fact cares for their well-being. He ties up Adele but only briefly so that she can truthfully tell authorities that she helped Frank against her will. Then Frank does all he can to do to help out with chores around the house and yard. Meanwhile, law enforcement personnel searching for Frank begin to close in on him.

Scott, Labor Day is the worst kind of nonsense that we find in trashy romance novels. It shows a hunky dangerous convict with a heart of gold. We assume that he was unjustly convicted and the story bears this out through flashbacks. Frank appears to be a bad man, running from the law, but gently ties his victim to a chair and feeds her chili – so he can’t be all bad, right? The heroine in the story is helpless not only in her day-to-day goings on, but also to the dark charms of our hero-villain. This is the sort of drek that sets modern feminism back 50 years.

Not only that, but the plot tries to tie-in a coming of age story for young Henry. This sub-plot receives very little attention but is a welcome distraction from the unbelievable love story. The whole movie is slow and plodding and I couldn’t wait for it to be over.

Greg, I do agree that the premise of Labor Day is a weak one, relying on the formulaic tale of a man wrongly imprisoned who escapes and must prove his romantic worthiness. Women who love to reform a bad-boy will love this film. The performances by Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet are excellent; the only problem is that even their immense talent can’t spin screenplay straw into gold.

The character of Frank is just a tad too perfect. He fixes things around the house, cleans the dust bunnies under the furniture, repairs the car engine, cooks like an award-winning chef, and is a tender loving caretaker to a child with cerebral palsy. Apparently, the makers of this movie got together and asked, how can we make a convicted murderer and the female lead, Adele, fall in love in only a few days? The answer they came up with was to make him perfect in every way. It just doesn’t ring true.

Scott, Frank is a confusing character. On the one hand he is a violent criminal on the run from the law. In most movies that makes him the villain. But on the other hand, he is a hero – acting as a father image to young Henry. He teaches Henry to play ball, and to bake a perfect pie. I’ve coined a new word for this type of character – the anti-villain. Just as we have anti-heroes (like Bonnie and Clyde) who start out good and turn to evil, the anti-villain starts out as a villain but shows the character traits of a hero.

I don’t see the character of Frank as confusing. He’s cut from the same mold as Harrison Ford’s character in The Fugitive – the innocent man victimized by a corrupt and incompetent legal system. We see in flashbacks that Frank had no intention of harming his wife and is in fact a sympathetic character who has suffered more than enough for any wrongdoing he may have done.

I do like your characterization of Frank as an anti-villain, as he is a good man who is on the lamb. The problem with Frank as a character is that his perfection is so neatly intact from start to finish that there is no room for growth or transformation. You could argue that Adele shares the hero role with Frank — she learns to trust and to open her heart again, but as you point out, this reduces her to a tiresome cliche straight from the pages of a cheap romance novel.

I didn’t see much growth in Adele. After Frank is taken away, she still is reclusive and is barely able to function. I don’t think every woman in films has to be strong and independent. But I don’t care for a hero character who is fully reliant on a man to take care of her and make her happy. That’s not heroic and that was no kind of transformation. The way this movie was made I felt we were watching something that came out of the 1950’s rather than 1987.

Young Henry is taken away from Adele and goes to live with his father. He grows into a fine young man and ultimately returns to Adele’s home for his final semester in high school. Aside from growing up, there wasn’t much growth for him either. Overall, there wasn’t much of a heroic story in this movie.

Labor Day is a sweet story of love but suffers from unrealistic characters caught in a contrived and cliched plot. If you like the idea of idealized romance without the messiness of reality to soil it, then this movie is for you. I admit I’m a sucker for love stories, even poorly told ones, and I also admire the talents of Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet. For these reasons, despite its obvious flaws, I’m willing to give Labor Day 2 Reels out of 5.

The hero story here is pretty much non-existent. The hero (or anti-villain, as you aptly describe him, Greg) is a hollow stereotype with no room for growth. His story also lacks many of the classic social elements of the hero’s journey, such as the presence of mentors, sidekicks, and father figures. Adele is a sympathetic figure but is hardly heroic herself. Her role is simply to observe Frank’s greatness and be affected by it. Sadly, I give Frank, and even Adele, a mere 1 Hero out of 5.

The villains are an inconsequential element of the story in Labor Day. The cops looking for Frank are hardly villains, and they exist merely as props to bring the romance between Frank and Adele to life. For this reason, I can only award 1 Villain out of 5.

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Scott, we have vastly different views of this film and yet come away with similar scores. Brolin and Winslet do a great job of acting in this film.  Jason Reitman’s directing is very good. It’s just that I really hated the story. I can’t get behind a convicted murderer abducting a woman and her son who is really a good guy at heart. A good guy would never have taken hostages – regardless of how well he treated them. What Adele really underwent was Stockholm’s syndrome – where the hostage begins to side with the kidnapper. If it weren’t for the excellent craftsmanship of this film I’d have awarded it just 1 Reel. But for good performances and good direction, I give Labor Day 2 out of 5 Reels.

Frank comes off as heroic and we pity him his situation. But as far as heroes go, I don’t think he measures up. As I just said, no true hero would take hostages. But when you score him on your Great Eight Characteristics, he does pretty well. I give Frank 1 Hero out of 5.

And Frank is also the villain, but because he is the romantic interest and father image he doesn’t provide any opposition. I give Frank his anti-villain score of 1 Villain out of 5.

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Ride Along ••

Ride_Along_posterStarring: Ice Cube, Kevin Hart, Tika Sumpter
Director: Tim Story
Screenplay: Greg Coolidge, Jason Mantzoukas
Action/Comedy, Rated: R
Running Time: 99 minutes
Release Date: January 17, 2014
Ben & James: Duo, P-PP Mental, Pro (Classic Buddy Cop Heroes)
Omar: Single, N-N Moral, Ant (Hidden Mastermind Villain)


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(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)

Greg, it looks like Kevin Hart wants to go along for the ride. Shall we review?

I don’t have the heart to say no. Let’s recap.

We meet Ben Barber (Kevin Hart), who works as a security guard at a local school but aspires to become a member of the Atlanta Police Department. Ben is dating a woman named Angela (Tika Sumpter) who is the sister of a current APD officer named James (Ice Cube). No matter how hard he tries, Ben can’t seem to impress James, who doesn’t believe that Ben is worthy of dating his sister.

Through a series of awkward events, James challenges Ben to go on a ride along with him in his police car. James offers that if Ben can keep up with him for a full day then he can have his blessing for his sister’s hand in marriage. But James stacks the odds against Ben by taking on only the most annoying calls and Ben quickly becomes frustrated.

Greg, Ride Along is a sort-of buddy cop story involving a funny guy, Ben, and a straight man, James. One has to be a Kevin Hart fan to enjoy this movie, and while I don’t claim to be his biggest fan, I did appreciate his talent and some of his antics. Hart and Ice Cube are a modern-day Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin; there is nonstop zaniness from Hart followed by scowls of disapproval by James. Both characters are likeable and I found myself rooting for them to achieve detente.

As we’ve seen with other “buddy” films, the buddies usually start out as adversaries and gradually grow to find a center. This was true of last year’s The Heat with Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy. In Ride Along, we see scene after scene of straight man James introducing Ben to situations he is not able to handle. But, James has a knack for noticing small details that eventually become useful to him.

As the story progresses, we find that James is tracking bad guy “Omar” (Laurence Fishburne) whom no one has seen. This shadowy figure controls the local drug and gun black market. This becomes the main object of the pair’s attention.

Indeed. It’s a predictable plot and so the appeal of the movie centers on whether you enjoy Kevin Hart’s physical comedy and verbally explosive humor. I do give this movie credit for creating two heroes whose characters evolve nicely as a result of their experiences. Ben is given the opportunity to show a crafty courageousness that enables him to win the approval of James. And as for James, he realizes that he has to let his sister live her own life, and he must also swallow his pride by admitting that his negative assessment of Ben was wrong.

As you point out, Greg, this bonding of two cops who initially dislike each other is typical of many buddy cop movies. And so the key here is in the performances and in the execution of the various predictable plot elements. Ride Along does a decent job along these lines but it’s all pretty standard fare.

You’re not kidding when you say this was predictable, Scott. There is the classic ornery boss who wants James not to follow his instincts. There is the go-to snitch on the street. There’s the rotten cop on the take. All the elements of the classic buddy-cop movie are here.

The villain was a disappointment. Omar is never seen until the last few scenes of the movie. He is built up as a dastardly dude who controls others from afar. Inexplicably, he shows up at a gun deal and shows how awful he is by killing one of his henchmen, because, you know, he’s mean. There is no dimension to this character and zero backstory. He’s just a bad, bad, man. Not a very interesting villain.

You’re right, Greg. The villain in this story, Omar, is mostly a figurehead who is spoken of ominously throughout the movie. When he does make an appearance at the end, he proves himself to be capably evil but hardly memorable. I was thinking that the only way to salvage my interest in the villain would be to make Kevin Hart, who pretends to be Omar, to turn out to be the actual Omar. But that would have been problematic for other reasons, and so we’re largely left with a vacuous villain.

Ride Along is a plodding device for Kevin Hart’s humor, like him or not. It borrows from all the buddy-cop movies that came before it and offers nothing new. There was scarcely a joke or giggle for the first 30 minutes and that was a deadly silence to bear. I can only give Ride Along 2 Reels out of 5.

Our buddy-heroes were pretty dull – not funny and not interesting. They both did converge into a sense of mutual admiration if not acceptance. I give them 2 Heroes out of 5.

The villain was nearly non-existent and only served to pull a “Snidely Whiplash” and abduct the damsel in distress (James’s sister) at the very end of the film. For a lackluster and generically bland villain I give Omar just 1 Villain out of 5.

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As you noted while we walked out of the theater, Greg, I did chuckle twice during this movie. I therefore give Ride Along one reel for each chuckle for a total of 2 Reels out of 5.  This film avoids receiving the dreaded 1 Reel because Kevin Hart is a good talent, and because Ice Cube deserves credit for handling Hart’s goofiness with noble restraint.

Our two heroes do undergo a transformation during the course of events in this movie. The hero story is hardly inspiring but it does contain some rudimentary elements of the hero’s journey. For that reason, I’ll generously award our dynamic duo a total of 3 Heroes out of 5.

As you point out, the villain was as flimsy as a piece of cardboard. He exists in name only and virtually no effort was made to render him the least bit interesting.  So like you, Greg, I can only hand out a measly 1 Villain out of 5.

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