Jake Johnson, Damon Wayans Jr., Andy Garcia, Rob Riggle
Luke Greenfield, Nicholas Thomas
20th Century Fox
It could have been a frightening thing for Twentieth-Century Fox as it faced distributing the faux cop comedy Let's Be Cops in the same week that Ferguson, Missouri is in the headlines and people across the country are intensely questioning the behavior of certain members of law enforcement.
It could have been frightening if, by some odd chance, there would have been anything particularly pointed or remotely dangerous about co-writer/director Luke Greenfield's Let's Be Cops. There isn't anything particularly pointed or remotely dangerous about the film. In fact, it's surprisingly devoid of anything resembling edgy or dark humor and earns its "R" rating more for its stupidity than its actual over-the-top antics. The film centers around a couple of buddies, Ryan (Jake Johnson) and Justin (Damon Wayans Jr.), two non-distinctly average guys living out unremarkably average lives. Ryan is a mostly unemployed actor whose claim to fame has been an STD commercial, while Justin is a video game developer with an obnoxious boss (Jon Lajoie) to whom he won't stand up even when the guy turns his game about a cop into a "Firefighters vs. Zombies" non-epic. The two decide to dress as cops, "Hey, let's be cops!", for a costume reunion they're attending and the reaction that they experience on their way home from the not even remotely successful affair convinces them, or mostly Ryan, to continue wearing the costumes until they take it further and further and then, finally, just way too far. The two become involved in a case involving a beautiful woman (Nina Dobrev), of course, and an all out crazed gang leader (James D'Arcy). Rob Riggle has a few good scenes as an actual cop who encounters the two, while Keegan Michael Key is terrific as a particularly intense dealer.
The problem is that anything that is actually intense in Let's Be Cops is intense in the "little i" kind of way. There's so much potential here for Let's Be Cops to be a dark, edgy, and even insightful film but it seems like the film's writers and director won't be having any of that. It's possible to actually sense Jake Johnson's desire to go off on a maniacal twist, but every time you start to think that maybe he's going to become completely unhinged we end up with Greenfield, who also gave us Rob Schneider's The Animal, goes for cheap humor over anything with even remotely some attitude.
While a generic buddy cop comedy could have still worked, Let's Be Cops is just a little too sterile and safe to land any truly laugh out loud moments but there are a few scenes, especially in the first half, that remind you that this could have been a much better film.
If you look at recent films along this line, I'm thinking of films like Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Observe and Report, and to a certain degree Superbad, Let's Be Cops likely exists more on the Paul Blart end but it lacks that film's heart and identifiable characters. In the end, Let's Be Cops ends up being a mostly unfunny comedy about characters we don't particularly care about in a situation that doesn't really matter.
Yeah, go ahead and spend your hard-earned money for that.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic