It’s likely that you’re familiar with Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. from their work in television. Both are characters on Fox’s hit comedy, New Girl. In that show, they play underachievers who are old friends that are living together. So, it makes sense that a movie where they play underachievers who are old friends that are living together, would be right up their alley.
Like most comedy vehicles, this movie is really just a framework for Johnson and Wayans to play off of each other. They play Ryan (Johnson) and Justin (Wayans), two college friends who’s lives haven’t worked out the way that they hoped. They go to a college reunion costume party (which is actually a masquerade ball) dressed as cops. They leave the party feeling dejected as they realize that they’re losers but soon realize that people think they’re actually cops. After having fun with it, Ryan gets addicted to the gag and ups the ante by getting a full on fake police car and learning a lot of police lingo/signals from Youtube (where you can go to learn anything). Justin starts to get the attention of Jossie (Nina Dobrev), a girl he’s got a crush on and Ryan gets to get back at different people who’ve put him down. The two accidentally cross paths with a real gangster, Mossi (James D’Arcy) and end up threatening his hold on a neighborhood that’s being used to traffic weapons. Instead of turning things over to the real police, they try to solve the case by themselves only to end up getting a hit put out on them by Mossi and a dirty cop, Brolin (Andy Garcia). Ultimately, they find a way out of it with the help of Segars (Rob Riggle), who is a real officer, and they end up growing from the experience.
So really, the success of this movie comes down to whether or not you find Wayans and Johnson funny. They do exactly what you’d expect (and what they should do) in this movie. They’re playing slightly different versions of characters that most people will be familiar with them playing. Justin is Wayan’s normal whiny, occasionally effeminate, and mild mannered black man who has outbursts of self confidence and some over the top reactions. Ryan is a former jock, which isn’t normal for Johnson, but he still fits into the mold of the run-down-30-something-overachiever who provides poorly thought out plans. In that way, he’s very similar to the Nick Miller character, that Johnson plays on New Girl (he has shown some diversity in other parts he’s played).
Personally, I enjoy their other work and I found them to be just as entertaining in the movie as I have in different TV shows. All the same, I was a little disappointed by the other characters in the movie. Everyone else is, more or less, playing the straight man or some ridiculous caricature in the film. Rob Riggle is usually hilarious but his character was really there to be a more serious counterpart to the main characters. I also would’ve liked to see Andy Garcia and Nina Dobrev get into the comedic act a bit instead of playing the villain and damsel in distress respectively. Most of that opportunity was taken up by Pupa (Keegan-Micheal Key) and Annie (Natasha Leggero). Those two got to play characters that were funny but just completely silly and over the top.
I should also mention that the movie does actually devolve/evolve into an action movie toward the end. Unlike some other movies that follow this path, this movie does actually do a really good job of it. There’s some fun stereotypical action moments in the movie and they do a good job at making those things not feel so self-important that they don’t fit the tone of the film. What really makes these scenes work is that they’re well done action scenes that look more “realistic” than like slapstick. The movie really keeps up the comedy at this point by allowing Johnson and Wayans to react to the more realistic violence than by having to do anything physically funny.
Otherwise, it’s hard to really talk about anything else that specifically happens in the movie without giving away some of the jokes/gags and those are the highlight of the movie, so I don’t really want to give any away. So I’ll just leave it with the general sentiment that if you enjoy the kind of humor in New Girl or Happy Endings and don’t mind a bit of action added in, then you will likely enjoy this movie.
Let's Be Cops
- Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr.
- A fun movie that's an appropriate vehicle for both actors to deliver the style of comedy they're known for
- The plot (and most of the movie) is fairly rote
- I would've liked to see Rob Riggle, Andy Garcia and Nina Dobrev get a little more involved in the comedy