Lovable losers—they’re everywhere in pop culture. The Jerk. Bridesmaids. Sideways. Jesse on Breaking Bad, Nick on New Girl, Pete on 30 Rock, Don Draper on Mad Men (I’m fully prepared to argue my case for that last one (Editor’s Note: I want to argue about that last one! – Mad Mike)). Underdogs we can identify with and root for. I assumed that was the plan with Let’s Be Cops. Unfortunately, it came out in a completely contrived, unfunny way.
I was wooed by the trailer, which featured some great, tour de force girl-screaming from Damon Wayans Jr. and schlub-with-a-cause purpose from Jake Johnson. But that trailer was put together much better than this movie. I actually laughed at the trailer—the movie, not so much. Wayans and Johnson play friends who are not having much life luck despite one’s desire to make a video game and the latter being a former star quarterback in college. They also might have to move back to, horror of horrors, the Midwest from LA., this being their dire predicament. Also, that Wayans has trouble talking to pretty waitress/plot contrivance for a really bad tattoo joke.
“Dude, I loved Reservoir dogs!”
I want to point out some of the things I liked from the movie, but other than my goodwill for Wayans and Johnson, I’m having a hard time. The plot—they dress up as cops for a masquerade party that was of course mistranslated, and decide to keep doing it because a couple of girls looked their way—barely hangs together as it is (cops are always the life of the party, right?), and then the movie itself has Wayans actually look up the (pretty damn serious) consequences of pretending to be cops, and they still decide to do it.
They even make a real cop friend (Rob Riggle), show that the actual police can be capable figures and don’t need bored losers to help them take down bad guys. Actually, the best part of this movie was Riggle, the current go-to for slightly-off-tilt authority figures in today’s comedy world. Riggle plays it pretty straight here as an actually trained cop who is good at his job—so he’s the only one who seems to know what he’s doing by default. He gets to look like a real badass a couple times, but his talents and militaristic presence seem out of place here as everyone else flails around in this alternate universe where it’s fine and basically unnoticeable to drive around in a police cruiser you bought on Ebay and decorated with decals you made yourself.
“I think she just checked out my gun.”
Even the action sequences are not nearly as much fun as they should be. In trying for a realistic vibe, the scenes mostly seem abrupt and always end ludicrously. The villains are pretty thin too—evil for evil’s sake, basically. The momentary criminals our pretending protagonists encounter in a hardware store probably would have been more engaging. And there’s also the classic of resorting to making children bully infantile adults, so there’s, uh, that vindication when Johnson shows those preteens how wrong they were about him…? Yeah, it’s as depressing as it sounds.
All the people in this movie are funny and good actors—just not in this movie. They deserve better, and so do we. Even lovable losers deserve a good laugh.