Okay, so here’s a good idea. Let’s take the lamest part of the F-bomb dropping teen comedy Superbad (the very unprofessional policemen who love to do illegal things) and mix it with the absolutely insane third act tonal twist of Pineapple Express (where things go from stoner silliness to dangerous drug dealer gunplay) and turn it into a 100 minute ersatz-movie. By the guy who directed Rob Schneider in The Animal. With a couple of guys from a quasi-popular TV show in the leads. That’s Let’s Be Cops in a humorless nutshell. This unabashedly terrible late-August title may speak to a demo that never knew true buddy comedy greatness, but for anyone else unlucky enough to wander into the theater while its playing, it’s a joyless, jug-headed chore.
We begin with two 30 year old losers, Ryan (Jake Johnson) and his best buddy Justin (Marlon Wayans, Jr.). The former is an unemployed actor. The latter is an unsuccessful video game designer. Needing costumes for an upcoming party, they grab some cop uniforms that Justin was using for research and head out. Soon, they discover that girls love a man in a uniform, guys listen to a man in uniform, and the public in general treat a man in a uniform in a totally predictable and poorly scripted manner. Thus, the title. The guys go along, pretending to be law enforcement and reeling in the many benefits of playing policemen. Then they come across a Russian mobster named Mossi (James D’Arcy) who doesn’t like our hapless heroes nosing in on his territory. Of course, they end up getting in way over their already braindead heads.
Take 21 Jump Street, remove the meta, and dumb it down to the point where single celled organisms would find it foolishly simplistic and stupid and you’ve got some idea of how horrible Let’s Be Cops is. Toss in a few nutsacks, a gaggle of other pointless gross-out gags, and as many ad-libbed expletives as the MPAA can handle and you’ve got this insipid excuse for entertainment. If you want characters, careful plotting, or competent work behind the camera, look elsewhere. All you have here is an aura of laziness lashed to a drawn-out desire to bash the audience over the head with this story’s proposed scatology. When done correctly, toilet humor can be just as clever as well-written satire. In the case of this off-the-cuff crap, there is a distinct lack of quality or concern.
Apparently, the Kevin Hart school of motor-mouthed jabbering is the new witty du jour (with bows to Vince Vaughn for laying such lame comedic groundwork in the first place). Both Johnson and Wayans, performing without a net–and perhaps, without a script–appear left to their own neophyte devices and desperately try, through non-stop chatter, to come up with proposed punchlines and clever rejoinders. Instead, they come across as unwilling participants in a cinematic experiment gone awry. Seth Rogen and James Franco could sell Pineapple Express, including its last act shift because… well, because they are Seth Rogen and James Franco, actual actors and experts in comedy. Here, once Andy Garcia shows up and things turn tense, all we feel is a sense of desperation, as if Let’s Be Cops had nowhere else to go.
Feel bad for everyone involved in this disaster. Feel bad for Johnson and Wayans (though they still have jobs on the Fox show New Girl, for what it’s worth). Feel bad for costars like Rob Riggle and Keegan-Michael Key, hired for their onscreen abilities and then given nothing of value to do. Feel bad for the viewer — or as one imagines, the group of ill-behaved teenagers sneaking into this R-rated rattrap — who will bray like hyenas at jokes that don’t deserve such a response. Granted, funny is very often in the eye, and ear, of the beholder. Let’s Be Cops is positively tone deaf when it comes to bringing on the giggles.