I often tell people where popular movies are concerned – “Keep your expectations low and you might end be pleasantly surprised.” Such is the case with Let’s be Cops, a goofy bromance comedy that comes off as a low-rent 21 Jump Street, yet it’s not without its charms. Much of this is due to the chemistry between its stars Jake Johnson (The New Girl) and Damon Wayans Jr. who, though they’ll never be confused for Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, still manage to inject this rote material with a brand of entertaining interplay that helps us excuse the ridiculous nature of the plot and the extremes it goes to in order to generate laughs.
Ryan and Justin (Johnson and Wayans Jr.) are two Ohio transplants trying to make in Los Angeles with little success. While the former is hoping something lucrative will fall in his lap, something he’s used to having been a star quarterback at Purdue, the latter is struggling to get his innovative design ideas heard at a the gaming company where he works. However, a reunion with their college chums proves to the turning point as they misread the invitation to the get-together, thinking it’s a costume party and end up going dressed as cops. This soiree goes sideways quickly for them but things take a quick turn as they’re walking back to their car and they realize that the citizens of the City of Angels look at them with respect and a bit of awe. Hot women throw themselves at them, while tough guys whither when they throw a glace their way. Feeling confident for the first time in ages, Ryan takes things to another level by buying a used police cruiser on-line, outfits it with realistic LAPD decals, festoons red and blue lights on top and convinces his buddy to cruise the mean streets of LA so they can feed off the misguided sense of respect that’s directed their way.
Of course, Ryan and Justin soon get involved in a real police case and find themselves trying to take down the vicious mobster Mossi (James D’Arcy). It’s pretty standard stuff but the comedic situations these two stumble into before things get too serious are quite effective. A domestic dispute between sorority sisters goes horribly wrong as Ryan sits on the sidelines as Justin gets pummeled by two young women, and while that ends badly, it’s nothing compared to the robbery call they answer and ultimately have to take down a very obese, naked man.
As comedic premises go, I’ve certainly sat through much worse and as written by director Luke Greenfield and Nicholas Thomas, there’s just enough of an air of plausibility surrounding these shenanigans that we’re willing to brush aside any nagging concerns we may have. Surprisingly, Johnson and Wayans Jr. work very well together, one the impulsive motor mouth, the other the ignored voice-of-reason, as their rapid-fire pattern and extreme comic reactions create laughs where they’re otherwise wouldn’t be any. The actors are so good we’re willing to forgive the script its faults just to see what sort of mess they’ll stumble into.
To be sure, this is a disposable entertainment and it certainly won’t stay in your memory for any length of time. But as far as goofy good times are concerned, you could do much worse than Lets Be Cops, a movie that I hope does well enough at the box office to justify reuniting Johnson and Wayans Jr. with a better script.
Let’s Be Cops – 2 ½ Stars
Rated R – 104 minutes