Let’s Be Cops (2014)
★ / ★★★★
Tired from getting a lack of respect in their every day lives, best buddies Justin (Damon Wayans Jr.) and Ryan (Jake Johnson) decide to pretend to be policemen when they realize that the uniform means power. Although they are able to have laughs and get into all sorts of relatively harmless trouble, eventually they find themselves facing mobsters who are not at all perturbed by men in uniform.
Written by Luke Greenfield and Nicholas Thomas, “Let’s Be Cops” is a one-note semi-joke stretched into a hundred minutes of near laughter-less experience. While Wayans Jr. and Johnson do share a bit of brotherly chemistry, their characters are nothing but caricatures—the white guy and the black guy who happen to be best of pals and do stupid things together. Would it have been too much if the writers strived a little bit more—to actually give us genuine underdogs worth rooting for?
The comedy is painted in broad strokes. It works occasionally and, admittedly, I had a few chuckles. None of the jokes are particularly clever, but the lead performers are so willing to go to extremes that I sort of admired they are willing to go there. Twice or thrice I laughed at Justin’s silly dance moves and one-liners. It is too bad that the movie does not have anything particularly meaningful to say about male friendship. One wonders why the material is afraid to go there.
When there is a hint of the duo being close to one another—whether it be physically or emotionally—it is almost always roadblocked by a “gay joke.” It is as if the writers grew up in the late 1990s or early 2000s when it was still socially acceptable to say, “That’s so gay” or “That’s so retarded.” Because of the type of humor presented on screen, I found the filmmakers to be juvenile, even sub-mental at times. Is this the best they can come up with? It is insulting to the audience.
The villain, played by James D’Arcy, is poorly written and executed. He appears either to look menacing or inflict pain and then he disappears almost immediately. We are neither given a clear and defined information about his backstory nor what he hopes to accomplish in the long run. Thus, like the protagonists, the villain is not worthy of our time and attention. He is more like an afterthought than an active ingredient in the story.
I was not out to analyze the movie given its apparent low ambitions. However, it has to offer the audience a certain level of intelligence because comedies do not equal braindead. Comedy works effectively when there is a relationship between the material and the audience—specifically, truths that we not want to deal with directly.
Case in point: Ryan and Justin feel like they do not get the respect they deserve. The writers fail to ask why they don’t get it and what the characters must then do to attain it. Instead, “Let’s Be Cops,” directed by Luke Greenfield, is content in circumventing the real issues. Therefore, the movie is like eating bad, unbuttered popcorn—nothing but air.