Let’s Be Cops (***) football against little kids

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Let’s Be Cops – 2014

Director Luke Greenfield
Starring Jake Johnson, Damon Wayans, Jr., Nina Dobrev, Rob Riggle, Keegan-Michael Key, Andy García
Screenplay Greenfield and Nicholas Thomas

There is the prevalent feeling when watching Let’s Be Cops that we are watching a film about people with questionable motives made by people with questionable motives. There is boundless energy in the film for things that really aren’t worthy of all the effort. Then, when it comes to doing something that would move the film beyond something that burns with the short-term boost of Mountain Dew Code Red, it’s time to go back to playing football against little kids.

There is a lot of energy in this film, and damn I love watching the effort. Johnson and Wayans, Jr. have true chemistry and cover different ends of the comedy spectrum. Wayans is Justin, a videogame designer who has led an unspectacular career thus far. Nonetheless, he pays the bills for he and his childlike friend / roommate Ryan (Johnson) who could have been a great football player if it wasn’t for the injury he sustained doing something recklessly stupid. Lest we think he is a complete bum, he does pay part of his own way thanks to the $13k he got for doing a v.d. commercial he did 2 years earlier.

Things are going along about the way one would expect for two guys with no prospects at the dawn of 30 when they mistake a masquerade college reunion party for a costume party. They show up wearing police uniforms from Justin’s work presentation of a Police video game. It goes poorly and they decide to make good on their promise to head back to their home in Ohio.

The long walk home becomes a night of enjoying being mistaken for cops by everyone they pass. This allows Justin an opportunity to impress Josie (Dobrev) who is a waitress at their local diner. Naturally they keep the ruse going prodded by Ryan’s intense study of police procedure and purchase of a police cruiser on eBay. Justin tries to back away, but his relationship with Josie continues to move forward and, really, it’s been pretty cool so far.

The friends meet up with Officer Segars (Riggle) who falls for their act, especially after he sees Ryan’s Sergeant stripes that he’d sewn on the night before. Josie’s diner falls into trouble with the local Albanian mafia, and with Segars help they launch an investigation that pushes the bounds of credibility way past the breaking point.

But who cares? Johnson is a comic force. His schtick is obvious but he invests himself so completely, it is hard not to be brought in by his effort. Wayans is a perfect straight man. His reluctance is easily won over by his Ryan’s completely irrational energy. It’s easy to imagine that the two have had a past off-screen.

Of the rest of the cast, Rob Riggle stands out, remarkably, doing a riff on his usual role as the seemingly clueless and enthusiastic force for good. He’s done it before, but rarely better. Andy García has aged nicely too, as he presents a heavy force whenever he is onscreen.

The real discovery for me though is the team of Wayans, Jr. and Johnson. They both play on the sitcom The New Girl, which is a show that was completely off my radar until now. I definitely plan on watching the show now.

In all honesty, Let’s Be Cops has every intention of being a horrible and unrealistic comedy. The treatment of women as objects for the most part is nicely countered by the treatment of everyone else as objects. Lest we forget the protagonists, yes, they are definitely idiots. The beauty of this film is we are seeing stuff that life would never allow us to contemplate in our real, more deliberate existence.

I may never watch this film again, but I will not soon forget the image of Ryan driving his police cruiser, lights blaring, onto a field where kids are playing ball just to prove to them that he had a day job. Nor will I forget Justin getting the worst end of a wacked out naked fat guy in a hardware store. These moments, cheap as they are, have the resonance to me of all the cowboys eating beans around the fire in Blazing Saddles.

You likely will know by watching the trailer whether you’d like the film or not.With that in mind, let me get you started:

If you get past that, then give this movie a try.

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