Jake Johnson is funny. Damon Wayans, Jr. is funny. They’re been funny together on “New Girl.” Put the two together in a film, and coming up with more than a handful of laughs shouldn’t be a tall order. But apparently someone forgot to give them much of anything funny to do, given that the general response to their comedy “Let’s Be Cops” is, to quote Nathan Rabin’s Letterboxd review, “Let’s not.”
Directed by Luke Greenfield (“The Animal,” “The Girl Next Door”), “Let’s Be Cops” stars Johnson and Wayans as two best friends who show up at a costume party as cops, only to get carried away with the power it gives them…and draw the attention of drug dealers. Early reviews suggest that it’s a pretty substandard action-comedy that frequently runs roughshod over its stars’ considerable chemistry. What’s worse is that some of the critics, like RogerEbert.com’s Brian Tallerico, see signs of a better movie waiting to bust out, only for the film to return to formula. Oh well, at least they can get the Twittersphere to blurb for it.
“Let’s Be Cops” hits theaters August 15. See something else.
Alonso Duralde, The Wrap
So…funny on paper, right? And to be fair, “Let’s Be Cops” inspires the occasional laugh out of Ryan’s gung-ho-ness or Justin’s hesitancy. (Wayans reworks some of the hetero-fey body language that served him so well on “Happy Endings.”) It doesn’t help that you can guess what’s going to happen, and which lessons are going to be learned. Meanwhile, the script works up a froth to keep the story afloat. Long after Ryan and Justin’s ruse should have been exposed, the film contorts itself to keep it going, which would be forgivable if keeping doing so meant more laughs. Read more.
Kate Erbland, Film.com
The film is confusingly and sloppily put together, edited down to the point that the few genuine jokes of “Let’s Be Cops” are given precious little time to breathe, before zipping into the next sequence of increasingly irrational events. Johnson and Wayans do have a strong and charming comedic chemistry between them (the pair currently star together on television’s “New Girl,” and the comfort of their existing relationship is obvious and kind of sweet), but Greenfield and co-screenwriter Nicholas Thomas’ insistence on putting them into more action-heavy sequences frequently dismantles the single best thing about the feature. Read more.
Kevin Jagernauth, The Playlist
It’s a shame. Jake Johnson is a talented performer, performing this exact role so much better on “New Girl,” with the significant difference that he has an actual script and character to play. So too is Wayans Jr., who spends most of the picture screaming in fear, reluctantly joining Johnson in whatever scheme is being cooked up, but rarely being given a chance to really flex his comedic muscles. Read more.
Joe Leydon, Variety
Johnson is unafraid to emphasize the more obnoxious aspects of his character, even while obviously straining, with frequent success, to elicit hearty guffaws with Ryan’s bad behavior. The faux flatfoot isn’t always likable, to a large degree because, while “Let’s Be Cops” is a comedy, the audience is never unaware that Ryan is repeatedly, and stupidly, placing himself and his buddy in mortal danger. Still, Johnson always manages to retain some degree of sympathy, especially when Ryan’s fecklessness is contrasted with the effectively straight-faced villainy of D’Arcy’s crime boss. Read more.
Brian Tallerico, RogerEbert.com
Those early montages of Johnson and Wayans breaking out of their shells by donning the outfits that give them the confidence to do so have a great comedic energy. These are two talented actors, and it looks like “Let’s Be Cops” is going to give them a chance to really find an audience they deserve with a breakout film. And then the film goes absolutely nowhere. To say that “Let’s Be Cops” spins its wheels tonally would be kind. “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” had more edge. The cops of “Superbad” had more edge. Whereas Johnson seems ready to do something truly dark—his character’s increasing willingness to push his false authority could have and should have sent this piece into “Observe and Report” levels of black humor—his writer/director doesn’t seem to want to go with him. Read more.