Let’s Be Cops

By on August 19, 2014
Lets Be Cops

Given some of the recent press, it’s safe to say that cops could use a little boost in their approval ratings, so the timing of “Let’s Be Cops” is somewhat of a positive- but also a bit of a negative as well. After all, the general premise is that literally anyone could get a hold of a police uniform, buy a used cop car online and deck it out so that it looks official, and voila! Instant cop! That manages to be both amusing and alarming at the same time, if you know what I mean, and I think that you do.

“New Girl” co-stars Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. play, respectively, Ryan and Justin, two ne’er-do-wells who get invited to what they think is a high school reunion costume party, but is actually a masquerade ball.

Dressing up as cops, they arrive to find everyone dressed to the nines, with those little face masks instead of full-blown costumes. (Think Mardi Gras- or “Eyes Wide Shut,” if you must.)

Ridiculed by everyone, they leave in shame, only to discover that they’re treated quite differently by everyone out and about in the neighborhood, who mistake them for actual cops.

Thus, the two decide to be cops for the night, reaping the benefits accordingly. Unfortunately, they also run afoul of some actual trouble when they run off some local mobster-types from a restaurant they frequent, which does not go over particularly well with their boss.

Damon Wayans Jr and Jake Johnson get a little more than they bargained for when they "arrest" Keegan Michael-Key in "Let's Be Cops." Courtesy of imdb.com

Damon Wayans Jr and Jake Johnson get a little more than they bargained for when they “arrest” Keegan Michael-Key in “Let’s Be Cops.”
Courtesy of imdb.com

That might be it if they stopped there, but Ryan opts to run with it, even going so far as to buy a used cop car on eBay, and deck it out with a police scanner and stickers and so forth. Though hesitant at first, eventually Justin comes aboard the scam, especially when he sees the reaction from his local crush, Josie (Nina Dobrev, of “The Vampire Diaries”), who works at the aforementioned restaurant.

This naturally gets them in a world of trouble, both with the actual police and the mobsters. Both hilarity and genuine action ensues as the two try their best to not get arrested, beaten or even killed.

So, needless to say, the premise is inspired, if completely unbelievable, but the two leads go a long way towards selling it. The fact that they already have an authentic, real-life bond from working together on “New Girl” makes it no problem buying them as friends, which in turn makes the viewer much more accepting of the ridiculousness of where the plot leads them.

I mean, don’t get me wrong: I’ve no doubt that if someone actually tried this, they actually would get in trouble, if not killed if they had the misfortune to get on the bad side of some gangster types. That’s certainly believable.

What isn’t believable is that actual cops would buy them as real ones for a second. At one point they even check out some weapons and surveillance equipment! I find it hard to buy that, upon checking said equipment out that they wouldn’t have to present their credentials to the precinct in question to do so.

But I digress. Obviously, in order for this to work in the first place, liberties have to be taken. I get that. So, ignoring the fact that some of the scenarios are completely implausible, the real question is: is it funny? After all, we’re not watching this for authenticity, right?

The answer is: sporadically at best. Johnson and Wayans are incredibly endearing, and it’s fun seeing Wayans play an insecure nerd type, with Johnson playing the more gung ho, macho type; when typically the opposite would be more expected.

This ain't "Baywatch"! Nope, it's way sillier, in "Let's Be Cops." Courtesy of imdb.com

This ain’t “Baywatch”! Nope, it’s way sillier, in “Let’s Be Cops.”
Courtesy of imdb.com

There are some undeniably funny scenes: a takedown at a store involving a naked perp on the run; a fun bit with “Key & Peele”-star Keegan Michael-Key as a potential informant; and an amusingly over-the-top turn from stand-up comedienne and “Chelsea Lately” regular Natasha Leggero as a horn-dog who has a thing for men in uniform.

Dobrev acquits herself nicely as a waitress who longs to be an FX artist, a neat spin on the usual waitress who wants to be an actress stereotype. The cast, which is full of talent- also including Andy Garcia and an amusing turn by former “Daily Show” funnyman Rob Riggle- is not the problem.

The problem is, while the film is watchable enough, it really isn’t that funny. You can pretty much see where things are headed every step of the way, and even if you go along with the premise and ignore the more hard-to-buy aspects of the plotting, it’s still only moderately entertaining at best.

In short, this is the very definition of a rental, or a cable watch. As such, I can only go as high as a C+, but less demanding viewers might go as high as a B, I suppose. You might not want to see these guys arrested by the end of the movie, but you probably won’t want to go on patrol with them again, either.

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About Mark Trammell

Mark Trammell is the resident entertainment critic at UAB, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he is also a Graduate Student and does a vid-cast movie review show. He is a life-long fan of films and has a pretty whacked-out, all-over-the-place movie collection that would give most sane people pause. He loves horror movies and Disney flicks and isn't entirely sure there is a difference. He one day hopes to put his money where his mouth is and inflict his own perverse vision on society, entirely so that he can tell people who ask: "If you think you can do better, why don't you make a movie yourself?" to shut up.
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