Since starting his studio career off strong with the solid hit “Barbershop,” director Tim Story then slowly turned in a string of mediocre releases (“Taxi,” “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer”) that finally had folks questioning how he made off so well the first time. However, things changed crucially at the start of 2012, as his adaptation of Steve Harvey‘s book, “Think Like a Man,” garnered both critical and box office acclaim (clocking in at $91 million domestic), as well as a brewing sequel. And now Story has taken his newfound clout to a promising comedy project alongside a former collaborator who was there from the beginning.
After years languishing in the shadows over at New Line while the studio argued over casting, Universal has announced they’ve acquired the comedy “Ride Along” in turnaround and nabbed Story to direct the film too. Unlike New Line though, Universal has a pretty clear idea about casting, securing comedian Kevin Hart to join Ice Cube (who’s remained attached) for the lead roles. The script has also had a tumultuous journey, being penned first by Greg Coolidge, then “The Dictator” co-star Jason Mantzoukas, before finally getting a re-write from scribes Matt Manfredi and Phil Hay. It follows a grade-school teacher (Hart) who has his sight on marrying his girlfriend, but first must pass a rigorous set of trials from her policeman brother (Cube) who harbors some strong feeling on the couple’s union. In the initial draft by Coolidge, a racial element was much more pronounced, with the cop angry over his sister’s interest in a white suitor, but it appears that aspect has been dropped from the overall story with Hart’s inclusion.
Beginning as a low-budget question mark over at Warner Bros., “Ride Along” has transformed into a highly bankable venture, thanks largely to its massively successful talent behind and in front of the camera. While on a story level the film seems pretty average, Hart is an undeniable comic presence, while Cube is coming off an amusing turn in “21 Jump Street” and should be able to bring a ferocity to his role as a rogue cop. Universal is confident enough, anyways, as they’ve fast-tracked the film for an October shoot date, so keep your eyes peeled for more details on the film soon. [Deadline]