Let’s be clear about Let’s Be Cops. It has a one-joke concept: impersonating police officers. Perfectly suitable as a comedy sketch on SNL or Key & Peele, director Luke Greenfield pushes the concept to have the comedy become an action movie before it’s all said and done. Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. play a pair of college friends (now thirty) who are resigned to the fact that they are going nowhere in life. Ryan (Johnson) is a former star quarterback at Purdue University who is now an unsuccessful actor – his only major credit is being part of a herpes commercial. Justin (Wayans) is a fledgling videogame designer, and pretty much the put-upon company employee asked to take notes during team meetings.
Face it, these two friends are losers, in the sense that neither has been able to find the type of success they envisioned when moving from Ohio to Los Angeles. They are initially cowed by an SUV full of hooligans, and then stumble into the comedy’s central premise when they dress up as policemen for a masquerade party. Dressed as cops Ryan and Justin are taken seriously for a change. Impersonating an officer of the law is illegal, but this newfound recognition as fake cops is a morale boost for them. Justin gets the confidence to ask out the beautiful waitress, Josie (Nina Dobrev), while Ryan becomes more invested in the charade, going as far as to trade in his POS Trans-Am for a police cruiser (thanks eBay!) with decals (thanks Kinko’s!), and all the trimmings (flashing red and blue lights, CB radio, and police scanner).
Masquerading as cops, Ryan and Justin engage in various dunderheaded shenanigans, like being mistaken for male strippers; breaking up a domestic disturbance at a sorority house; and, probably the most manic moment, attempting to apprehend a naked B&E suspect in a supermarket. The charade is fun for the two friends, but Justin worries about the legal ramifications with the continued ruse. Upon having a bit of revenge on the hooligans that accosted them earlier in the movie it later comes to light that the hooligans represent a major criminal entity that has been terrorizing local residents for property ownership. Andy Garcia pops up as a crime lord, Rob Riggle shows up as a patrol officer, and Key & Peele‘s Keegan-Michael Key is a scene stealer as the tattooed Pupa.
Let’s Be Cops is a movie I wrote off during the summer as I didn’t think its premise could work as a feature comedy. It looked like two stars of the TV show The New Girl mugging for the camera disguised as cops. It’s full of juvenile humor, but there are some good laughs to be had. It also helps that director Greenfield (of The Girl Next Door) infuses the comedy with music that works for a particular moment. Opening with Ryan doing a solo karaoke rendition of The Backstreet Boys seems like something he would do, and the mere mention of Reservoir Dogs‘ ear-cutting scene gives us Lazlo Bane’s cover of Steeler’s Wheel’s “Stuck in the Middle with You” during a bumbling interrogation.
There is no mistaking its formula, from the characters to the general premise, but it seems that most critics failed to realize that it was a comedy first and an action movie second. Most seemed to go with the conceit that it was an action-comedy, when in fact it is a comedy that morphs into an action movie. Stars Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. are not attempting to ape the likes of Mel Gibson and Danny Glover in a Lethal Weapon spoof. To be honest, it has more in common with the likes of Stakeout (with Emilo Estevez and Richard Dreyfus) and Midnight Run (with Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin). Both of those comedies seem to get overlooked in the police/buddy comedies of the ’80s, which also included the likes of 48 Hrs., Beverly Hills Cop, and Running Scared.
Let’s Be Cops feels very much like an ’80s buddy cop comedy. But its arrival after 21 Jump Street and its sequel, 22 Jump Street, the comedy, it will always be looked as an also-ran. Too bad. It’s not as bad most critics make it out to be.
This comedy release from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment boasts a 1080p transfer in 1.85:1. Video transfer is decently sharp but not one that blows your eye balls away. With a soundtrack that includes rock ballads (Scorpions, Lou Reed) and hip-hop tracks (Ghostface Killah, Ginuwine), the loseless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix struts each tune with realative ease. When the action kicks up in the third act, the dynamic range is also tops with each gunshot or shotgun blast.
In terms of supplemental material, we get seventeen minutes of deleted and alternate scenes; Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr.’s camera test from the apartment set of The New Girl; audio commentaries from Luke Greenfield (director, producer and co-writer) and Nicholas Thomas (co-writer); theatrical trailer and photo gallery; and two EPK-style featurettes on the two stars/characters and how “authentic” Luke Greenfield was in trying to make Let’s Be Cops be funnier.
The extras are a mixed bag in terms of quality, but there are some laughs to be found in the alternate scenes. Aside from that, everything else is watch once and forget about it.
Let’s Be Cops is a good comedy that has the misfortune of arriving three decades too late (it has an ’80s buddy comedy way about it) as well as coming after the success of the two Jump Street movies. Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. are a fun pairing, and their previous experience on TV’s The New Girl serves them well with a friendship built on common interests and not a difference in race. The Blu-ray provides good visuals and audio, and the supplements are appealing for what they offer. Those on the fence, take a gamble and make it a rental.
20th Century Fox presents Let’s Be Cops. Directed by: Luke Greenfield. Screenplay by: Luke Greenfield and Nicholas Thomas. Starring: Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. Rating: R. Running time: 104 minutes. Released: November 11, 2014.
Tags: Damon Wayans Jr, Jake Johnson, Let's be cops, The New Girl