Aside from a few notable exceptions such as 22 Jump Street and Sex Tape, it’s been slim pickings for summer moviegoers who prefer a little comedy along with their popcorn. But just as summer starts to wrap up, in rides Let’s Be Cops like a siren-blaring dark horse.Directed by Luke Greenfield and starring the lovable Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr., both of The New Girl fame, Let’s Be Cops could just be the sleeper hit comedy fans have been holding out for. But do Johnson and Wayans Jr. have enough comedic charm to keep the laughs coming? Or is Let’s Be Cops just another meandering joyride better left untaken?
Let’s Be Cops works best when it plays to both Johnson’s and Wayans Jr.’s strengths, i.e. being the two funny men with great chemistry anyone who’s watched New Girl already knows they are. Their dialogue is snappy, their delivery is solid, and they both have excellent body language; turning something as simple as a smarmy grin or an eye-roll into comedy gold. It’s when the film tries to stretch its premise beyond the comedy that it ends up stumbling.
Anyone who’s seen the film’s preview trailer already knows the basic gist: Ryan O’Malley (Johnson) and Justin Miller (Wayans Jr.) are two thirty-year-old roommates living in L.A. with literally nothing going for them. Ryan is a former football player who spends his days lazing around after a leg injury cost him his chance to go pro. Justin is an unassertive video game designer who has his idea of a game centered around the experience of being a police officer butchered and stolen by his boss Todd (Jon Lajoie of The League). Everything changes for the pair however when they attend a college reunion party (thinking it’s a costume party) dressed as cops using outfits Justin obtained as promotional materials for his game.
As can be expected, hilarity ensues. The pair use their newfound power of people thinking they’re real police officers to score weed off of teenagers, gain access to VIP clubs, and even help Justin score a date with a pretty waitress named Josie (Nina Dobrev). Ryan soon takes the idea even further, learning a bunch of police hand signals via YouTube and buying an old Crown Vic police cruiser off of eBay. But when the pair’s mischief inadvertently draws them into the crosshairs of criminal gang leader Mossi Kasic (James D’Arcy), they both learn the hard way that sometimes it takes a real cop to do a real cop’s job.
While Let’s Be Cops’ premise is refreshingly original, its comedic vibe doesn’t stay consistent throughout. I’d say roughly the first third and the final twenty minutes of the movie’s runtime are its biggest strengths, simply because they focus mainly on the comedy without getting muddled by the criminal gang meta-plot. The first third features a lot of the gags seen in the movie’s trailer, including a house call to a sorority house and a hardware store break-in that pairs the two up with veteran patrol officer Seagars (Rob Riggle). While the business with the criminal organization is bolstered somewhat thanks to cameos from both Andy Garcia and Keegan-Michael Key (of Key and Peele), it is so riddled with plot holes and inconsistent segways that it completely breaks the movie’s flow.
Fortunately the film gets back on track during its final twenty minutes or so but even then, its overall moral of buddies supporting each other even when things look bleak feels rushed and disconnected from all the police impersonation hijinks. Aside from the disjointed narrative, the film’s only other glaring weakness is an over-reliance on the archetypes both Ryan and Justin represent. Neither character really goes through any sort of meaningful growth (despite each guy’s constant demeaning of the other’s behavior) and yet the viewer is expected to believe that the predictable (and rushed) moment of conciliation the two have during the film’s climax is supposed to suddenly inspire both men to grow up and get their acts together.
I’d be willing to say I think Let’s Be Cops would have worked better if it didn’t devote so much of its script to Ryan’s and Justin’s showdown with Mossi and his thugs. I understand it gave Ryan’s character a sense of purpose but it also pulled the film’s story out of the realm of plausible comedy and into the non-compelling territory of ramped up action that served *no* purpose. When the guys are just dinking around and getting into trouble, the laughs are nearly non-stop. When the film then tries to transfer those hijinks into a narrative with actual criminals and consequences, the whole thing sadly falls apart.
If you’re still looking for a fun comedy to see this summer, I’d recommend Let’s Be Cops if only because both Johnson and Wayans Jr. are hilarious (especially when they’re together) and because it’s a genuinely funny flick that also has a completely original concept. If you can deal with the movie’s far-fetched concept of two guys being able to so perfectly get away with impersonating cops and the even *more* far-fetched concept of them being able to successfully take down a criminal organization almost entirely on their own, you should be good. It may not have the most consistent or plausible narrative, but Let’s Be Cops has more than enough laughs packed into its two-hour runtime to make the price of admission well worth it.
Images: Official Movie Website