Kevin Smith is in the director’s chair for Cop Out, a buddy cop movie with Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan that had the potential to be 100 times better than it is.
All the elements are there — Tracy Morgan, Bruce Willis, the cop formula, Tracy Morgan dressed as a cell phone. And yes, even Kevin Smith, whose crude humor has never quite reached the highbrow level of, say, the Farrelly brothers’ big comedy stylings or Judd Apatow’s penis-joke sensibilities but which I usually find kind of sweet and entertaining. I’m not saying this could have been a comedy for the ages but it had the potential to be an enjoyable trip to the theater.
Jimmy Monroe (Willis) and Paul Hodges (Morgan) attempt to bring in a drug dealer but instead their witness ends up dead, the neighborhood is shot up, they ruin another detective’s investigation and Paul is filmed (and subsequently posted on YouTube) in his cell phone get-up pushing a kid off his bike so he could ride after the fast escaping drug dealer. A dressing down by their Sarge (or whomever) ends with Jimmy and Paul being suspended without pay (or badges or guns) for a month. Jimmy is particularly upset about this — partly because he blames Paul for all that went wrong and partly because his daughter Ava (Michelle Trachtenberg) is about to get married. If Jimmy doesn’t come up with the $50,000 needed to pay for her elaborate wedding, her mother’s new husband, Roy (Jason Lee), will pay for it and make Jimmy feel like a loser in the process.
Jimmy decides to come up with the money by selling a valuable baseball card, but when he’s at the shop, it’s robbed and thus is set in motion his quest to find his card. Along the way, this new crime becomes intertwined with the initial drug dealer, his boss and his crew, and soon Jimmy and Paul are having to bring down a major drug-dealing operation in order to get the card back.
Also, Paul thinks his wife Debbie (Rashida Jones) is cheating on him with the neighbor — so from time to time that bit of foolishness inserts itself into the plot.
There are a lot of twists and turns in this story — I haven’t even mentioned the requisite hot kidnapping victim, Gabriela (Ana de la Reguera), or the particularly nimble thief Dave (Seann William Scott). But all these characters and plot points feel more like a “just throw in everything” move than the story development I think they’re supposed to be.
And yet still, all of this might have worked if Cop Out were indeed what I suspect it meant to be, which is a riff on the buddy cop movie genre, a campy remake leaning on the cheesiest elements of the formula as done in the 1970s and 1980s. There’s a bit of that there — the classic “chewed out by the boss” scene and a truly fascinating ’80s Casio score. But then the movie sort of skids to a stop and goes somewhere else — trying to just be a The Hangover-ish lark filled with absurdities and eighth-grade humor. Only, that part is only half-hearted and then we get what appears to be an actual earnest approach to the crime part of the movie.
Or maybe I’m just giving too much credit to an unimaginative Mad Libs of a script filled in with dirty words but without any real wit. Because ultimately the worst thing about Cop Out is that it isn’t funny. A few laughs here and there don’t add up to full-on comedy. Cop Out is, ultimately, lazy and without any of the charm that would excuse that much laziness. Morgan plays it big and Willis plays it stiff but neither ever hits a comedy stride. And even though the movie gives us several dozen subplots, it never lands on one that works.Crammed full of stuff, Cop Out feels underdone and empty. C-
Rated R for pervasive language including sexual reference, violence and brief sexuality. Directed by Kevin Smith and written by Robb Cullen and Mark Cullen, Cop Out is an hour and 50 minutes long and is distributed by Warner Bros.