Let's Be Cops (2014) - Can't Stop the Movies
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Let’s Be Cops (2014)

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Ryan and Justin made a pact with each other to move back home if they aren't successes by the time they turn 30.  Right when they're about to give up on their dreams they don police uniforms for a party and find that people look at them with a bit more respect now.  When they get involved in a struggle with local criminals will they run to the real cops, or keep the ruse up and help their community?  Let's Be Cops stars Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans, Jr.

Not so quick drawLet’s Be Cops concludes a debate I’ve pondered about the comic potential of the Backstreet Boys. First, for those who aren’t awash in ‘90s nostalgia, their inclusion is never going to help a film gravitate toward greater comedy or drama – they’re just too simple and calming to do either. Second, their song “I Want It That Way” has been featured in so many “white dude melodramatically singing” scenes at this point that it should be clear this isn’t funny. It’s never been funny. Please stop dragging generically pleasing song around in an attempt at humor.

I bring this up because Let’s Be Cops opens with Ryan (Jake Johnson) belting out “I Want It That Way” and this was one of the high points on an abysmal scale of quality. Let’s Be Cops is bland, and when it’s not bland, it’s infuriating in the way it wastes pristine talents on bad jokes and inconsistent dramatic confrontations. Those hoping for a few good images to liven up the flat physical and verbal humor should seek their thrills elsewhere as Let’s Be Cops is also one of the worst looking films of 2014.

All of this makes unfortunate sense when I started to look at the credentials behind Let’s Be Cops. Directed and co-written by Luke Greenfield, whose previous credits included the “porn star who loves me” comedy The Girl Next Door and the Rob Schneider vehicle The Animal. Nothing about those two films indicates Greenfield has a grasp of comedy and, while I certainly understand going astray with comedy when Schneider is an early model, he has shown little in the way of evolving since.


If the performers execution isn't enough to nail the laugh then the direction and cinematography need to pick up the slack.

Take the shot above as an example of why this film isn’t funny on a visual level. There isn’t one aspect of Daryn Okada’s cinematography that jumps out, little to guide the eye, and this is the moment that Ryan and Justin (Damon Wayans, Jr.) realize the power of the police uniforms they’re wearing. By setting this moment at night their uniforms barely have anything to contrast against and the small assortment of people speaks less to their new authority and more to the general suspicion of people who have “Freeze!” yelled at them. Okada’s cinematography might not be as dull if the script was funny and the bland presentation seeks to keep the focus on the performers. But in moments where the images are supposed to carry the humor they suffer from a lack of imagination like when the best he can come up with for Justin smoking crystal meth is a slow 360 rotation shot and a bit of double-vision.

The other problem with the visuals ties back in with the script and Greenfield, along with cowriter Nicholas Thomas, have little sense of escalation. Both of the laughs Let’s Be Cops generated came from a successful and gradual buildup to a punchline or realization. I laughed hard when Ryan and Justin’s initial reluctance at being the entertainment for a bachelorette party went to a smash cut of the two embracing their roles with enthusiasm, or when Justin realizes what acts he would perform for more meth and realizes he might be good at some of them. The rest of the time it’s either immediately zany or aimless chatter that tries to establish a rhythm of casual humor but just riffs on what’s blatantly clear on the screen without actually making a joke.

Pictured: a summary of every female character in Let's Be Cops.

Pictured: femininity à la Let's Be Cops.

The writing issues are further complicated by the inconsistent message of Greenfield and Thomas’ script. There are a couple of moments where the comedy veers hard into drama and Let’s Be Cops starts lecturing the audience, by proxy of Ryan and Justin, that being a cop is serious business and should be respected. An admirable message, sure, but one that grows at best inconsistent and at worst hypocritical as the villains gun down real officers with little fanfare while Ryan and Justin’s antics grow more cartoonish as the film progresses. It does not help that Ryan and Justin get into their roleplaying not because of a sense of justice, but because a ton of women walking by them gaze at the two with specific physical activities in mind.

It’s one thing to write a comedic space where mutual physical desires are communicated in awkward ways. What Greenfield and Thomas have done is write every woman in Let’s Be Cops, with one specific exception, as though they are constantly in heat. This isn’t a source of comedy and is more another bit of questionable wish-fulfillment for Ryan and Justin as they are both rewarded with love interests for their deceit. But their script calls for the traditionally attractive women in dresses to be crazy attracted to Ryan and Justin, a fact that becomes sadly clear when the duo encounters some stronger women with tighter haircuts and less form-fitting clothes.

This just isn’t funny, and comedy can get away with a lot of otherwise questionable material. But when just about every woman throws themselves at Ryan and Justin, their actions are constantly underscored by broad pop hits, and they get pretty much everything they want from the scenario then there’s no conflict. No conflict, no comedy. A light slap on the wrists from the film’s moral authority doesn’t count. Let’s Be Cops limps in from the opening frame, and the rest of the run-time is like watching a doctor operating on a long-dead patient.

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Tail - Let's Be CopsLet's Be Cops (2014)

Directed by Luke Greenfield.
Screenplay written by Luke Greenfield and Nicholas Thomas.
Starring Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans, Jr.

Posted by Andrew

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