A road comedy from the producers of “House Party,” “Ride” offsets its predictable storyline with a few genuinely funny bits of dialogue and some earnest performances. Propelled by the popular artists on its rap and hip hop soundtrack, “Ride” should score with young urban audiences, even if crossover and international prospects are slight. Ancillary cable and video outlook is solid.
Story finds New Yorker Leta (Melissa De Sousa), an aspiring director just out of film school, accepting her first job as an assistant to musicvideo helmer Bleau Kelly (MTV’s Downtown Julie Brown). Assembling a group of young street talents for an upcoming video to be shot in Florida, Leta makes her first trip to Harlem and finds more than she bargained for.
An inner city activist named Poppa (Malik Yoba) introduces Leta to the undisciplined bunch of would be artists. They include up and coming rapper Brotha (Sticky Fingaz) and his jilted girlfriend, Tuesday (Kellie Williams); her singing partner, Blacke (Julia Garrison); interracial rappers Casper (Reuben Asher) and Indigo (Guy Torrey); sexy Latina starlet Charity (Idalis de Leon); and trouble-making teen Geronimo (Fredro Starr).
The trip has barely begun when some unexpected problems arise: Their chartered ride to Miami turns out to be a foul smelling, run down jalopy of a bus that hasn’t had an oil change since the Johnson administration. Worse, a couple of gangstas named Peaches (The Lady of Rage) and Bird (Dartanyan Edmonds) are out to get Geronimo, guns in hand.
On the trip to Florida, the passengers get acquainted. Between bits of bathroom humor, they bond and break up; some make cat calls while others cat-fight. Much of this takes place with a disarming, self reflexive awareness of popular culture that pervades the dialogue. Advising an unruly passenger to cooperate with others, his friend asks, “Didn’t you learn anything from the Million Man March?”
Its witticisms notwithstanding, writer director Millicent Shelton’s script treads familiar road-movie territory, including barroom brawls and narrow escapes. Nevertheless, “Ride” is technically well above average.
Richard Owings’ bright, colorful costumes effectively complement Bryan Jones’ production design and firmly underscore pic’s comedic tone; Frank Byers’ straightforward lensing does same. Thesping is adequate all around, with kudos especially due Williams as the cast-off lover Tuesday and Yoba as the sensible, world weary Poppa. Snoop Doggy Dogg makes a noteworthy cameo appearance.