“This is super illegal, right?”
Let’s Be Cops is an average story, starring average guys, mostly doing average things. The main takeaway is that it’s hilarious. Like most comedies, it has hiccups trying to transition into the third act, getting too dramatic for its own good. Things slow down a bit but that doesn’t hurt the movie that much. It’s plain and simple dumb fun. It’s not going to stick with you and honestly I can’t remember a lot of what I laughed at. In a lackluster season of summer movies, anything with plenty of good jokes is a welcome addition to the party.
It opens with two washed up thirty year olds sitting in a diner. Justin (Damon Wayans Jr.) quietly sits at the table with a beer. He’s a pushover working for a video game developer. Karaoking a classic Backstreet Boys tune is Ryan O’Malley (Jake Johnson). The guy is a former college quarterback living off of the money he got doing a commercial for genital herpes medicine years ago. The friends have a pact; if they don’t make it in LA before they turn thirty, they head back home to the Midwest. They decide to attend a college reunion hoping to run into old friends, only to be reminded that the past has left them behind. People have moved on. They’re losers.
Justin fails to pitch a hyper-realistic game about police officers. Ryan spends his days “coaching” a group of kids just trying to play pickup neighborhood football games. They put on the costumes from Justin’s game presentation, and what do you know, people think they’re real cops. It’s a clever idea and I liked seeing two people with such lack of control over their lives be given the universal identity of command and power. The badge is a path towards moving past their own failures.
I was surprised where the story went, almost veering too far into attempted drama than was needed. Mobsters are introduced that have to be taken down. They feel obligated to help, even if real life Officer Segars (Rob Riggle in my favorite performance of his yet) tells them not to. It’s a good attempt, but doesn’t completely work. Justin and Ryan’s antics impersonating the law are so funny that you start to feel a lack of laughs towards the end. The jokes are still there, just not as often and not as uproarious.
Wayans and Johnson are a great duo. Johnson plays the character with more gags, but they both deserve credit for delivering funny turns here. The pair almost feels like Harry and Lloyd from Dumb and Dumber except this time it’s a good cop bad cop formula. Justin wants to quit the rouse but can’t after he gets the attention of gorgeous Josie (Nina Dobrev). Ryan wants to milk it for all it’s worth because besides football it’s the only thing he’s ever been good at. They’re fun characters to watch but we never know enough about them. Towards the end when all hell breaks loose, and the mimicry becomes reality, they call each other brothers in a strained heartfelt moment. We can’t believe it. This is a movie about a story that is not as concerned about the people inhabiting it.
Even for a comedy, the directing by Luke Greenfield is pretty good. Jokes don’t tend to drag, different styles are used, and you can tell the actors really got a chance to act…to use their chops and create in the moment. The tone of the film gets jumbled and it sacrifices its own creativity by going exactly where you expect it to. I know the rating I’m giving this is too high. After all, it’s just another R-rated comedy pining for laughs. But it’s hard to argue when you see a movie like this with a group of elderly men and women in attendance and hear them howling with laughter. Let’s Be Cops isn’t great, but ultimately accomplishes what it was made for. You’ll laugh plenty.
“That’s what you get!”
Rating: 3 out of 5