If you have some affection for the 1980’s-era buddy cop movies (the “Lethal Weapon” series, “Running Scared,” “48 Hours,” etc.), rent one of those. Don’t try to re-create the genre by seeing Kevin Smith’s tired re-tread, “Cop Out,” starring Bruce Willis and Tracey Morgan. This is the first film Smith has directed without writing, and once again the suits got it backward. Kevin Smith can write, but he has never been much of a director. Remember his first film, “Clerks?” He basically set up the camera in one position and let the characters talk for 92 minutes. And it was that talk — the relishing of banality, the tsunami of TMI — that made the movie successful.
The check-list items are here. It begins with our not-so-lovably bickering heroes getting into trouble, being chewed out by a choleric police chief and dissed by a higher-ranking team (Kevin Pollack and Adam Brody). Denuded of guns and badges, they still have to figure out a way to save the day not just in locking up (or, mostly, shooting down) the bad guys but also in resolving their personal problems. Jimmy (Willis) has to figure out a way to pay for his daughter’s $50,000 wedding and Paul (Morgan) is hyper-jealous and has installed a nanny-cam in a teddy bear to find out whether his pretty wife (Rashida Jones) is cheating on him. Of course they run into an obnoxious small-time crook who will help them catch the bigger crooks (the Joe Pesci role — with a bit of Jason Mewes — goes to Seann William Scott). They are constantly nattering at each other but always having each other’s backs. And they mess everything up, in many different locations, until they don’t.
On the meandering way to the conclusion, we also see ambitious Mexican drug-dealers, a foul-mouthed kid, a valuable collectible, and a beautiful woman who has been in the trunk of a car for two days, as she repeatedly reminds everyone.
Willis looks like he is just running out the clock until his next project. Morgan and Scott try their best to stay afloat and there are some inspired improvisational riffs, but the script and direction keep getting in their way. The bad guys don’t do much but squint and call everyone “homes” all the time. Smith brought in Harold Faltermeyer, composer of the unforgettable “Beverly Hills Cop” soundtrack (he also provided the music for “Fletch” and “Top Gun”), occasionally amusing but mostly just pointlessly retro. And the movie perpetuates the least appealing element of its predecessors by giving its female characters nothing to do. Michelle Trachtenberg looks goth-pale and scary-thin as Jimmy’s daughter, Jones feeds Morgan straight lines and looks very pretty as Paul’s wife, and Ana de la Reguera is stuck in a typical spitfire (with real spit) role. Only Susie Essman (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”) is able to make the most of her brief appearance as a pistol-packing homeowner.
Smith, smarting after a couple of failures, decided to play safe with a studio movie when what he needs to be doing is to stop putting all of his creative energy into funny tweets and go back to writing scripts with heart and humor and memorable characters. Anything else is a cop out.
Parents should know that this film has extremely raunchy and rough language used by adults and a child, very explicit and crude sexual references and sexual humor including insults, non-explicit sexual situations, characters in peril, crotch hits to adult and child, characters injured and killed in frequent crime-related violent situations, some graphic, guns, falls, punches, chases, crashes, drinking, drug dealing and drug use, racial humor
Family discussion: Why was it important to Jimmy to pay for his daughter’s wedding? What elements of this movie do you recognize from other “buddy cop” movies and what are different?
If you like this, try the films that inspired this one like “Lethal Weapon,” “Running Scared,” and “48 Hours”