‘Let’s Be Cops’ is Light on Laughs, Heavy on Familiarity

GameStop, Inc.

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There’s no shortage of police comedies out there. Hell, there were 7 Police Academy movies. This year alone we’ve had the police comedies of Ride Along and 22 Jump Street. In case your appetite for comedic cops hasn’t been satisfied, there’s now Let’s Be Cops, a new comedy starring Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans, Jr. The catch with this film is they’re not actual cops, just a duo getting their kicks through dressing up and pretending to be police officers. More often than not, the film plays it safe, choosing the familiar without any thing of its own to say.

Down on their luck and having just turned 30, Justin (Wayans) and Ryan (Johnson) are at a crossroads in life. Justin works as a game developer and is trying to get his game approved for development, a realistic police game. Living off his paycheck for a herpes ad, Ryan lives in the shadow of his past glory as a college quarterback, playing with neighborhood kids and taking it very seriously. One evening the two go to a college reunion which they believe to be a costume party, but is, in fact, a masquerade ball. Using the police uniforms for Justin’s presentation, the two are stunned when people believe they’re cops. They intervene during a shakedown attempt at a local diner they frequent. Justin strikes up a relationship with the waitress, Josie (Nina Dobrev) that he’s had a crush on. While Justin keeps masquerading as a cop to impress Josie, Ryan finds meaning in his life through pretending to be a police officer. He buys a police scanner and a used police cruiser. Soon the duo is investigating Mossi Devic (James D’Arcy), a psychotic Russian gangster. The pair of imposters strike up a working friendship with Officer Segars (Rob Riggle), who is intent on bringing down Mossi’s criminal empire.

With a running time of 104 minutes, Let’s Be Cops feels 20 minutes too long. The film’s opening is promising, full of some funny moments. But it soon settles for familiarity, using numerous genre clichés without subversion. When the film employs the use of the action filmmaking style, it’s not using the technique to enhance a joke, but rather it shifts over to generic action film mode. There are certainly some shocking and funny moments, but not enough to balance out the tired, uninventive clichés.

Wayans and Johnson give their all with the lackluster material, the two having worked together on the show The New Girl. They bounce off one another incredibly well, and they do have a good onscreen dynamic. As the aspiring makeup artist and current waitress, Nina Dobrev is passable as the romantic interest. Rob Riggle does what he does, and it’s nice to see Andy Garcia in a movie again, even if it’s a small part as another tired cliché. Rounding out the cast as another tired cliché is James D’Arcy as the Russian gangster, who is never given anything of note to work with here. There are appearances by comedy mainstays Keegan Michael Key and Natasha Leggerro, but like everyone else, they aren’t given the most to work with.

It is impossible for Let’s Be Cops to escape the shadow of 22 Jump Street. Both films hit familiar beats, but Jump Street actually subverts its genre with irreverent glee. Here it plays out like a decent song played by a mediocre cover band. Director Luke Greenfield, working with a script he co-wrote with Nicholas Thomas, plays its safe with script and the visuals. Ultimately, Let’s Be Cops is a disappointing film. It’s not a film that invites scorn, it just squanders some good performances in the service of playing it safe. That may work in actual police work, but in comedy it doesn’t.

 

 

 

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