Let’s Be Cops is a very good formula cop comedy that doesn’t seem to have been harmed by the unfortunate timing of its release – less than a week after everything went to hell in Ferguson Missouri. This could have been a disaster, but the movie is entertaining enough to overcome the bad luck and get some laffs.
Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr., both refugees from TV’s New Girl, have the charm and comedy chops to make this movie work. Comedy vets Rob Riggle and Keegan-Michael Key have good supporting roles. The only really bad performance is by Nina Dobrev as the love interest, who poses when she’s supposed to be acting, and brings nothing to her role. She was a better actress back when she played a teen mom on DeGrassi The Next Generation.
The movie works best when director Luke Greenfield lets the actors loose – there are improv style scenes featuring Keegan-Michael Key and Natasha Leggero that reach the anarchic heights of Reno 911, or an old Cheech and Chong movie. Unfortunately, most of the movie Greenfield sticks to the tried and true #2LFUSR formula (let’s make that hashtag happen, people). The Two Lovable Fuck-ups Seeking Redemption formula goes something like this:
1. Meet the slackers
2. The big humiliation
3. Accidental inspiration
4. Small victory
5. Major obstacle
6. Slackers transcend
7. Victory lap
Even if you haven’t seen 21 or 22 Jump Street, or The Other Guys, or The Internship, you know how this movie goes – our heroes start out as overgrown adolescents, whose slacker lifestyles/weirdo hobbies/pathetic apartments start to seem silly now that they are 30/40/expecting a child. After being humiliated by their co-workers/successful former high-school or college friends/siblings, the duo discover a magical mask/business plan/police uniform that finally brings them some measure of respect. But there’s a bad guy who is jealous/just plain mean and wants to take away their magic hat/adorkable girlfriend/manhood. After an inspiring speech, the two slackers overcome their weakness and get the girl/win the contest/arrest the bad guy/etc. At the end there is a wedding/graduation/award ceremony, and Pharrell Williams/Katy Perry/Smashmouth cover a beloved song from the sixties, roll credits.
They keep making these movies because the formula works – it gives the filmmakers a nice structure to hang their gags on, and it is comfortable for the audience. The downside is how pat everything is. South Park’s Stan Marsh used to end episodes of that show with a speech that began “You know, I think we’ve learned something here today..” and lately these bro comedies feel about that formulaic. The team behind Let’s Be Cops clearly has the skills to bring this stuff to life, but I sure wouldn’t mind seeing a comedy movie where no one learns an important life lesson.
Overall Score: 85
Letter Grade: B+