Let’s Be Cops is the second buddy cop film to hit theatres this summer, and while the boys in its counterpart, 22 Jump Street, were all about the phrase “fake it til’ you make it”, this movie is a lot more true to those words. Jake Johnson and Damon Waynes Jr. (of New Girl fame) star as Ryan and David, two friends who are going nowhere in their Los Angeles lives as a has-been college football player and a video game designer, respectively. When they get invited to a costume-themed college reunion party, the boys dress up as police officers, and end up taking their game of pretend to the streets, just because they can. When their fun takes them deep into a mob plot that threatens the city, suddenly the game becomes a bit more real than their dollar store badges.
The film explores this child-like fantasy of becoming a police officer through the eyes of Ryan and David, who are completely unsatisfied with the way their lives are going. Ryan has no idea what to do with his life, and David’s creative spirit is undermined by his boss and mindless coworkers. When they realize not only how much fun it is to play dress up, but how convincing they are while doing so, their adventures are both amusing and endearing, reminding viewers that it’s okay to take a step back and live a dream, even if it means you’re just abusing the privileges that come with the territory. A lot of audience members have seen how well Johnson and Waynes Jr. work together on New Girl, and their chemistry carries over into Let’s Be Cops, which is an integral part to a film inspired by the buddy cop genre. It’s not necessarily because of the similarities between Ryan and Johnson’s character on New Girl, but more due to his ability to be shameless and unapologetic in his joke delivery, which goes for Waynes Jr. as well.
While the pair definitely enjoy the various perks associated with their “job”, Ryan decides to fully invest himself into the role. Much of that is spoiled in the trailers, but as he slowly gets involved in a mob plot affecting his local bar, he begins to hold stake-outs, go on undercover missions, and investigate, just like a real cop would, dragging a reluctant David along the way. Their play on buddy cop tropes are pretty funny in many instances and there are some pop-culture inspired moments that play out as either crude or goofy.
Unfortunately, the laughs are not good nor frequent enough to make this film a quality comedy, especially since they hinge upon what turns out to be a pretty bland plot that hold the movie back from being entertaining as it could be. It’s disappointing that that’s the case, given that the director behind this movie is Luke Greenfield, who also directed The Girl Next Door and is produced by Simon Kinberg (X-Men series). Nina Dobrev (The Vampire Diaries, The Perks of Being a Wallflower)’s role is minimal and nearly pointless, acting as a love interest and accidental assistant to the boys, and has little impact on the overall story. While Andy Garcia is as intimidating as ever, his place in the movie is one of the many reasons that there are so many tonal shifts in Let’s Be Cops, making for an uneven viewing experience that will barely satisfy any dreamer or moviegoer heading to the theatre this week.
I won tickets to an early screening of Let’s Be Cops in Toronto last week, courtesy of 20th Century Fox.