Let’s Be Cops joins a long line of law enforcement comedies. Police Academy, Beverly Hills Cop, The Other Guys and 21 Jump Street have all found fun in incompetent cops pitted against even less competent bad guys.
But Let’s Be Cops struggles to stand tall with these police comedy giants.
Luke Greenfield’s mediocre offering sees two thirty-something losers impersonate the boys in blue only to find themselves in pretty serious comedic danger. A heavy handed exposition introduces us to Ryan (Jake Johnson), who’s biggest success comes from appearing in a Herpes commercial, and Justin (Damon Wyans Jr), a weak-willed video game designer who can’t get any of his creations into production. One humiliating school reunion later and the pair find themselves mistaken for cops on the streets of LA. Fire up the laptop for a spot of DIY police training YouTube style.
But Ryan and Justin’s bromance is nothing compared with this year’s 22 Jump Street reunion of Schmidt and Jenko. Justin’s constant disapproval combined with Ryan’s escalating enthusiasm for police imitation makes for a dull clash. Most importantly, Greenfield’s debut screenplay gives his characters little room to manoeuvre. Ryan and Justin’s loser mindset fails to evolve from its most basic clichés while Wyans and Johnson lack the charisma necessary to elevate the harsh and profane dialogue into laugh out loud comedy.
When Greenfield does go all out in the comedy stakes, he favours whacky characters and ridiculous physical comedy. We get a naked takedown, Borat-style, and an oversexed woman who’s annoying flirtations detract from a neat stakeout sequence. Let’s Be Cops wallows in the silly and stereotypical. It’s at its best when it demonstrates the nerve to be subtle.
Where the trailer gives audiences a series of hilarious gaffes - including an inebriated fight with sorority sisters - the film itself lacks the confidence to convincingly relax into the duo’s foolish experiments with their new found power. Instead it stumbles clumsily upon an age old gangster story complete with corruption and maniacal villain and Let’s Be Cops ends up taking itself far too seriously. Wyans and Johnson work visibly hard to make the flawed material work though, and their heart is just enough to make us care how it all turns out.
Amateur cops Ryan and Justin might lack the originality and the charisma to become the next Gamble and Hoitz but they do give us a reason to keep watching. Greenfield’s Let’s Be Cops doesn’t have enough courage to be memorable comedy.
It settles for pure, dumb fun instead.
Running Time: 104 minutes