I was a bit disappointed that the early screening of Let’s Be Cops didn’t have the same type of social marketing hashtag that The Purge: Anarchy had. For The Purge, they wanted viewers of the early movie screening to tweet what they’d do #IfThePurgeWasReal. Let’s Be Cops wasn’t afforded the same benefit. There was no “#WhatIfWeLetsBeCops, possibly out of fear, because most of those ideas that would be tweeted out might be better than the actual ideas within Let’s Be Cops. Where Pixar very often describes throwing away complete story idea to try and attain some real and original, Let’s Be Cops feels more like it was scraping at the bottom of the barrel wasting an excellent premise and cast.
Let’s Be Cops is composed of a lot of pieces that should work with Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr, both actors who I love from The New Girl, teaming up in a high concept comedy – What if two guys pretended to be cops in L.A? The premise itself leads to a wide gamut of possibilities but ultimately results in very little payoff or cohesion with most of that fault going to director and writer Luke Greenfield. There are no over the top cop movie parodies, there is no depth to the actual story, there is very little creativity in the movie overall and that leaves it DOA.
Wayons Jr plays Justin, a video game designed with a lack of self confidence. He can’t talk to the Josie, the waitress he likes, played by Nina Dobrev, he can’t pitch his cop-centric shooter game to his boss (Jon Lajoie aka Taco from The League), he can’t command authority from the thugs who smash his ride and he can’t stand up to his roommate Ryan (Johnson) who keeps him from moving back to Ohio (the Ohio crowd jeered at the screen). When he and Johnson turn up at a Perdue reunion, which is held at a mansion in Los Angeles for some reason and which is a masquerade for some reason, in police outfits left over from the game pitch, Justin realizes how little he has amounted to and feels depressed. Ryan meanwhile revels in his permanently arrested development though the characterization is mixed where he’s aware of how much of a failure he is, but at the same time he shows no concern for it.
When the pair wander home dejectedly from the party in costume, their life suddenly starts turning around. A band of women make out with them for a scavenger hunt, they discover the gamut of powers that come from dressing as officers and start committing numerous minor crimes along the way. Ryan, reveling in his newfound powers, uses his poorly defined small fortune (he’s been living in LA for two years without work on $11,000?) and free time to take his mimicry to the next level, studying police procedure on Youtube, buying a police car and practicing moves on his quickly and repeatedly abandoned kid sidekick, Little Joey. Little Joey, which I had to look up to get his name, seriously shows up 4 times in the movie but he is never given a party beyond being a sounding block and swearing. Ryan and Justin decide to see how far they can carry on their con for the fun of it, before running into the thugs who smashed their car earlier who are shaking down the owners of the restaurant where Josie works (though the movie fails to make this clear since Josie doesn’t appear in the scene). After embarrassing the thugs (who are literally the Tracksuit Vampires from Hawkeye) by making them dance which they put up with for unknown reasons, the pair sending them packing. Justin gets Josies attention and starts a relationship with her (based on lies which if they had sex could be rape though the movie tries to avoid all of the darkness it can) and Ryan finds his true calling to be a cop. And then things escalate as they meet actual Police Officer Segars, played in a surprisingly subdued role by Rob Riggle who sets them on the trail of the thugs who are lead by Mossi, played surprisingly well by James D’Arcy, as a murderous ganglord trying to take over the restaurant where Josie works for… unknown reasons. As the conspiracy develops they run into Keegan Michael Key as a drug dealer, Natasha Leggero as a drug addict and Andy Garcia as the mysterious man who controls Mossi.
Ultimately though the movie feels a lot messier than it is because the humor feels almost like an accident when it works since they can’t replicate it regularly enough to make it seem on purpose. Literally for the first 10 minutes of the movie the packed house barely laughed at all because the jokes were bombing to the point where I would have left and every character that Ryan and Justin ran into were just horrible. The film does eventually pick up but a majority of the laughs come from either slapstick humor which fails more often than not or physical comedy which is still very hit or miss. And the movie eventually strives to criticize the genre of action movies and video games for making gun fights ridiculous but the delivery once again fails. The Other Guys did the same bit several times much more successfully but that was a vastly different movie beyond it just being better. The Other Guys had heart behind it and deeper characters (and I’m talking about The Other Guys) and here the characters had no cores. They were stereotypes and they stayed stereotypes thanks to the poor work on the movie from Greenfield
Most of the shots are perfunctory and are serviceable but the movie itself feels like it isn’t a movie that had love go into it. There is a scene where Justin smokes some crack and instead of really doing anything creative with the directing, they film resorts to some mild distortion effects, not going far enough to actually make a joke. 21 Jump Street and 22 Jump Street pulled off their drug use scenes much more effectively and while I’ve enjoyed Greenfield’s work in the past, I love Role Models, this movie makes it clear that he lacks the writing chops to make anything that has heft to it, comedic or otherwise, let alone anything actually original. Most of the actors seem to be trying their best to give the movie whatever direction they think it needs but without a steadier directing hand, the movie falls into being yet another forgettable summer comedy and an utterly average movie.
Let’s Be Cops hits theaters nationwide on August 13, 2014.