Sometimes, films are unjustly judged. Other times, popular opinion needs to be challenged. Either way, this content will likely be unpopular.
Comedy movies don’t necessarily need complicated premises or layered characters. Just look at the likes of Happy Gilmore or Anchorman – two very simple movies that stand out as excellent examples for the genre as a whole. So, when a movie with a dumb premise comes along that literally revolves around its main characters pretending to be police officers, it still has potential.
Let’s Be Cops combines the talents of Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr., making use of the chemistry they so clearly displayed on the sitcom New Girl. Following slacker Ryan (Johnson) and repressed video game designer Justin (Wayans) as they break free from their somewhat miserable existence by pretending to be cops. Donning LAPD uniforms and roaming the streets sees them afforded all sorts of opportunities, so they soak it in and enjoy the rush of power. However, when they stumble into the plans of a local criminal organization, Ryan and Justin find themselves doing actual police work. Obviously, that’s difficult when you aren’t actually a cop.
To put it plainly, Let’s Be Cops failed to impress critics at the time of its release. The specific reasons why are actually about as simple as the film’s plot itself, but that isn’t to say that it’s not without some redeeming qualities. From its simple premise, Let’s Be Cops does build something a little unexpected, but the bad still far outweighs the good.
Let’s Be Cops May Be As Uninspiring As Its Title, But Its Stars Deserve Better
Let’s Be Cops sort of feels like the result of one very brief conversation which spiraled into an entire movie. Its story really is that thrown together, particularly the film’s first act: two friends act without any thought for the morality or consequences of their actions. Then, Ryan and Justin begin to find themselves drawn deeper into things they can’t (or won’t) extricate themselves from. That’s all well and good as far as comedy plots go, but it’s a story that plays out as chaotically as possible, coming off as thoughtless as its protagonists.
The general lack of any real quality is especially disappointing as it’s a clear waste of its stars’ collective comedic talent. Johnson and Wayans share an excellent chemistry that shores up the film’s narrative weaknesses, but it’s still not enough to make its plot genuinely interesting. It’s pretty standard fare, all things considered: dangerous criminals have big plans, and the hapless protagonists are the only ones who can stop them. Still, the natural back and forth between Ryan and Justin does work, and it’s probably Let’s Be Cops‘ only real strength.
Much of the film’s comedy is lazy and gently problematic. Most of Let’s Be Cops‘ attempted humor is at the expense of someone or something – a little body-shaming here, and a little ageism there – or it’s that particular brand of weird racial stereotype jokes that simply aren’t funny. There’s no real thought to anything much: its humor isn’t measured or clever, it’s just general silliness with a bit of plot thrown in.
It’s also worth mentioning that in the modern age, everything seems to be a statement on something, so Let’s Be Cops is a little problematic however you look at it. It manages to make the police look both incompetent and ignorant while also glorifying them, and skims over some of the much darker implications of its protagonist’s ill-gotten power trip. What’s even worse is that despite acknowledging that they’ve committed enough crimes to spend the rest of their lives in prison, they both completely get away with it, achieving their respective dreams as though they didn’t defraud and endanger countless people on a whim. It’s a weird message to send an audience, which only further proves how thoughtless Let’s Be Cops really is.
In all honesty, it’s not a bad film – it’s just not a good one. In many ways, Let’s Be Cops is as basic as a comedy film can be, offering up a few light laughs alongside a serviceable (if forgettable) story. It has the potential to offend, but it doesn’t really redeem itself in either story or comedy, so it’s ultimately just not worth watching.
Summary: Two talented comedic actors deliver an ill-considered performance in this brainless buddy-cop action comedy. There are one or two laughs to be had, but they probably aren’t worth the time it takes to find them under all Let’s Be Cops‘ nonsense.
Highlight: The genuine warmth shown between Ryan and Justin lends a little more legitimacy to the “buddy” part of the film’s premise, and allows for many of the film’s funniest moments.