Comedic values – If there were one genre you will see less reviewed from yours truly, it would be comedy. And it’s not because I don’t enjoy laughing, because I do. I just don’t get an extra kick out of laughing alongside 100 strangers at a movie theater. Plus, how much can you say about a comedy other than whether it’s funny or not? So for those shallow reasons, I rarely step to the box office and purchase tickets for a comedy. But, sometimes lack of a better choice will arise as it did this week when I decided to give “Let’s Be Cops” a chance. Trailer looked funny enough, so I went and was pleasantly surprised with the result given my low expectations going in.
What’s it about? Not that it really matters all too much, but the story in this one follows two 30-something guys and a pact they made when they moved to California from Ohio together. The deal was if they hadn’t “made it” by the time they were 30, they would move back to Ohio. Well, they are 30 now and going nowhere. Ryan O’Malley (Jake Johnson) after ruining his football career in college has been indirectly mentoring local kids while his buddy Justin Miller (Damon Wayans, Jr.) has been attempting to get his idea for a video game accepted by management. After a college reunion party that goes awry, the two walk away dejected only to later be picked back up when people start believing the police costumes they had worn to the party were real. A few days later Ryan buys an old police cruiser and cleans it up to look identical to the actual police cruisers roaming the city. With the police car taking their charade a step further, the two embark on an unlikely adventure through the streets of LA that while ‘funny’ at first became ‘real’ in a hurry when they got mixed up with the wrong criminal resulting in a conclusion full of laughs.
Who was in it? I doubt anyone that watched this film will recognize the cast outside those CW viewers who tune in to watch The Vampire Diaries each week. Because outside of Nina Dobrev, no one in this cast is one you would be able to remember from a prior film. Sorry, Andy Garcia doesn’t count, mostly because he is barely in the film. That said Jake Johnson looks like a guy you have seen, but unless you watch him on the sitcom New Girl, you won’t know from where. Even Damon Wayans Jr., who obviously looks like his Dad, is someone you can’t remember seeing before. So, if you add all that up you start to wonder how this film ever got green-lit. The film has next to no star power to go along with a storyline that could hit or miss. But, from where I sat, the cast did their part as I had no issue with anyone and even enjoyed the back and forth between Johnson and Wayans. They clearly are comfortable with each other, having worked together on New Girl, but still managed to carry this film when no one else could. That included Nina Dobrev, who just never had much of an opportunity to stretch her skills due to limited screen time. That’s a shame as she has a tendency of drawing you into anything she is doing, which fans of The Vampire Diaries can easily attest to.
Directing with a smile – I’ve often wondered how hard it is to direct a comedy. Because if the script is half way decent and the cast are fairly noteworthy, how much is there to really do? Sure, there might be spots where you want a certain shot to linger to draw in more laughs, but outside of that I would never give too much credit to directors of comedies. That is unless they also wrote the script, which in that case is a big deal given most comedies will only go as far as the jokes will let them. I use ‘jokes” for lack of a better term, but I think you get the idea and why it’s crucial to have the right cast. For that reason I give credit to writer/director Luke Greenfield (“The Girl Next Door”) for casting two guys like Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans,Jr. who could come in with prior chemistry together. Because without them, this film would have fell right on its face and been out of theaters before ever knowing anything about it.
Bottom Line – I won’t deny that “Let’s Be Cops” is nothing more than an average comedy, but that’s OK. Fact is this film is not trying to be anything it’s not, so why grade it too harshly? To me if it provides enough laughs and moves along without any trouble, it’s a successful comedy.
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