Let’s Be Cops is one of those comedies that’s hard to get behind. You want to go with it, you want to laugh along, but you can’t help but be put off by the film’s sense of plausibility.
Director Luke Greenfield co-wrote this screenplay with Nicholas Thomas, and it’s a script that does more harm than good. The story starts off well enough with two schlubs (Ryan and Justin played by Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr.) being eaten up by the Los Angeles scene. They’ve made a pact years before, stating that if they’re unsuccessful by age 30 in LA, they’ll both move back to Ohio. We never find out what’s waiting for them in Ohio, other than it’s a comfortable homestead. Possibly a better movie, but we’ll never know.
The two buddies strap on police uniforms to suit up for a costume party, but soon find out their new digs have people fooled. These two wimps are now in control, and watching them reap the benefits is amusing for a little while as they tell bystanders to “freeze” and have others busting-a-move.
Let’s Be Cops should’ve taken place within the span of one night – a night that could change our leads’ destinies. At first, it’s all fun and games, but then they get roped into a dangerous case that takes them on a crazy eight-hour spin. It would essentially have the film ending the same way, Greenfield and Thomas could still have their lowbrow humour, and the comic relief could have a bit more fun randomly popping up within Ryan and Justin’s timeline.
Instead, Greenfield and Thomas stretch the events out over a few days – a week even. This may not sound like too much of a problem in the world of a goofy comedy, but this extended focus makes the set-up uncomfortable and Justin – the wacky friend – appear increasingly psychotic.
At the costume party, Justin is reminded of how little he’s done since school and, therefore, wants to make a difference. He takes on this new gig as a fake cop as his chance to leave an impact and clean up the streets of LA. This could’ve possibly worked if Greenfield and Thomas hadn’t made the act of impersonating a police officer look so effortless.
Slipping into a cop’s uniform may have been good for a few defiant giggles in Let’s Be Cops, but when Justin starts explaining how easy it was to buy a cop car, print out and slap on the required signage, and rent equipment for a sting operation, the laughs came to a slow stop and the film’s vibe became awkwardly manic.
Here’s where Let’s Be Cops really starts to trip up. Justin sees how wild their antics are and tells Ryan to put an end to the charade – especially when waters between them and a local gang start to get heated. Ryan gives his story of unfulfillment, and makes Justin into the buzzkill. Justin shrivels up, shrugs his shoulders, and the film carries on.
It’s an iffy move to put the voice of reason into the corner as many times Let’s Be Cops does. It’s an even dicier move to frequently show Ryan as someone we should feel sorry for or laugh with. Johnson (who can be seen with Waynans Jr. on FOX’s New Girl) can be very funny, but making this type of character and material work is a high wire act across fishing line.
There are comical things that happen in Let’s Be Cops. Some sight gags work, Rob Riggle is very good as he plays more of a straight man routine, and Natasha Leggero shows up in a role that requires her to be over-the-top with kinkiness. But, it’s very hard to support a movie that starts as benign silliness and proceeds to cackle its way into delirium with the same naïvety. Greenfield and the film’s script try to apologize by trying to satirize video games using police combat, which only makes matters that much more murkier.
What I did appreciate about Let’s Be Cops is that it reminded me of how clever virtually every other buddy cop comedy is compared to Greenfield’s misfire. All except Kevin Smith’s Cop Out. But, anything’s better than Cop Out – even smoking crystal meth. Am I right, Let’s Be Cops?