This review is going to discuss plot. Do not read unless you saw the film or you have no interest in seeing the film.
With a title like Let’s Be Cops, you should know what you’re walking into. Even then, it’s difficult not to think about what you just watched after you do.
Let’s Be Cops is a pretty basic buddy comedy. Two 30 something guys who feel like their lives are not going the way they were supposed to decide to take a case of mixed identity to its comedy extent. Doing so leads them to being mistaken for the real thing and they have to pull through and find “the real thing” inside to stay alive during their charade. Everything works out in the end. Everyone is happy.
It’s a by the numbers cliché kind of comedy. It’s the kind of thing that really shouldn’t work as well as it does. Yet Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr., who work together on FOX’s New Girl, have undeniable chemistry. They can make broken jokes work and take a weak scene and make it digestible. It’s confirmed there’s a lot of improvisation and that doesn’t surprise me. A movie like this could have starred anyone and taking two TV actors shows the studio knew it could. Why bother convincing Seth Rogen or someone of his status to do this when you can get someone lower on the pay scale? Fortunately, they grabbed two guys who know their comedic strengths and know how to play to each other. It works, but it shouldn’t.
Ryan (Johnson) is a former college football ace who got injured before he could become something. Because of this, he has become nothing; currently living on what little money he made in a herpes commercial. Justin (Wayans Jr.) is a videogame programmer who should be something more than he is but he can’t find the courage and self-confidence to stand up for himself. The two head to a reunion where it was supposed to be a masquerade but Ryan thought it was a costume party. They end up showing up in accurate LAPD police uniforms that came from a display Justin was using to try and sell a cop game to the studio he works at. After leaving the reunion, they hit the streets to realize the power that comes in looking like police.
This leads to your typical hijinks one would attempt if they thought they could get away with something like this. A lot of it plays into, “you’d never see a cop do this!” kind of antics. The uniform even allows Justin to finally talk to a beautiful waitress named Josie (Nina Dobrev) after pushing some thugs out of a restaurant. The uniform drives Ryan to do more than he has done in his life since his football injury, while Justin starts finding his confidence.
This soon leads to the first problems with the plot. The two eventually meet up with real cops, one being played by Rob Riggle, where Ryan convinces him that he outranks Riggle’s Officer Segars. When they run out on break and entering suspects, Segars seems to look at the two like he realizes they are just imposters. Later on, he sees them at the police station trying to give themselves up and instead vets for them being real cops and gives them real equipment. It’s at this point you have to ask yourself, is Segars an idiot because he doesn’t know, or if he an idiot because he just gave two counterfeit police officers a ton of police equipment to conduct their own investigation? It’s especially bothersome when Segars is played to be real police. He’s good at his job.
The bizarre holes continue when the two fake cops stop a truck full of mysterious items and kidnap the driver. They also catch a mysterious man dealing with the big time criminals, only to find out he has been taking photographs of them, only to discover the man is a police officer himself. A police officer who seems more than happy to let a bunch of criminals try to catch the fake cops instead of the police. It’s messy but worth the Andy Garcia appearance.
It’s hard to really see where the movie sits when it comes to police officers. Justin seems to respect them, trying to create a videogame where you play as police officers instead of criminals or zombies (honestly, the game industry does need a few good AAA games where you play as the law instead of breaking it), but he’s also the lesser hero of the two. Ryan originally treats it like a joke but he shows skills as an officer after watching a bunch of YouTube videos. The film goes out of its way to show that Ryan is finding his passion when pretending to be a police officer. Cops are generally the good guys in the movie, even when being impersonated.
All that said, this is the stuff that doesn’t matter. This is a comedy that “ups the stakes” at the end so you care about the conflict the characters get into (they even do a cliché breakup but it doesn’t even last long), and it isn’t actually bad in terms of making you feel the characters are in peril. Despite some displays of heroics, the real hero ends up being a real police officer. The way it probably should be.
I should end by saying that while these plotholes bothered me? I still really enjoyed the movie. It’s hilarious. Jake Johnson is a natural and should be seen in more work. Damon Wayans Jr. is probably funnier than his father and hopefully gets better roles as well. Keenan-Michael Key, Natasha Leggero and Jon Lajoie are serviceable in supporting roles. Women are generally sex objects in the film, which is unfortunate when TV shows like Brooklyn Nine-Nine have shown that women as police officers can be credible and funny. Again, this movie works on the strength of Johnson and Wayans Jr. and less on the plot. It’s a vehicle for the leads more than a vehicle for a good movie.
If you want comedy junk food? Let’s Be Cops is it.