Here is a movie that goes wrong in so many ways, it's hard to know where to begin describing its many faults. Yes, Cop Out is not very funny, and seems to be built on a plot that could barely withstand a half hour TV police drama, let alone a 100 minute long movie. But, let's get back to that later, and take a look at the first problem that comes to mind. Any good cop buddy movie succeeds or fails on the chemistry between its two stars, and Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan have absolutely none. They don't even seem that comfortable together on the screen, which makes the audience feel uncomfortable watching them.
Not exactly a good start, when they're supposed to be playing characters who have not only been partners on the job for nine years, but also best friends. Willis is supposed to be the tough "straight" cop, while Morgan has the job of being the goofy comic sidekick. We're supposed to see how they can work together, despite their different personalities, but we never do. Willis often looks like he wishes he was acting along side someone else, while Morgan seems to mainly be playing for the cameras, rather than to his co-star. It's distracting, since we're constantly paying attention to the actors and their off key performances, not the characters they're playing. It's especially distracting to watch Morgan, who knows he's supposed to be the main jolt of comic energy in the film, but tries way too hard. He raises his voice, he bugs his eyes, and he quotes dialogue from other movies non-stop, but he never gets a single laugh. That's because he seems to constantly be making a conscious effort to be funny, like a failed stand up routine. He should have tried to build a genuine character, and let the laughs build from there.
In the movie, they play Jimmy (Willis) and Paul (Morgan). At the start of the movie, they're chewed out by the chief for letting some drug runners get away during a botched undercover job. Here is where we get another sign of trouble in the film early on. During the undercover job, Morgan is dressed in a foam rubber cell phone costume. He doesn't get to do anything funny while wearing the costume, mind you, the costume itself is the joke. Then, while the chief is ranting and raving, he's still wearing it. Why? And why does he continue to wear it the entire rest of the time he's at the police station? It's like the movie is wondering why we didn't laugh the first time we saw him wearing the phone suit, so he keeps it on, hoping we'll laugh if he keeps it on long enough. We don't, and the plot creaks on. We learn that Jimmy's adult daughter (Michelle Trachtenberg) is getting married, and wants a big, expensive wedding. Jimmy doesn't want his ex-wife's slimy new boyfriend (Jason Lee) to pay for the ceremony, but he doesn't have any money to cover it. He decides to sell a rare, prized baseball card, only to have it get stolen by a pair of incompetent burglars before Jimmy can sell it.
One of those burglars turns out to be a goofy dimwit played by Seann William Scott. He likes to practice parkour (a martial art that consists of doing flying leaps across rooftops), break into people's houses so he can use their toilets, and tell non-stop obscene knock-knock jokes once Jimmy and Paul finally capture him and have him locked up in the back seat of their car. They want to know what he did with the prized baseball card. Turns out he sold it to the same drug dealer they were after at the beginning of the movie. Now a cop movie about a stolen baseball card would be pretty thin stuff, so there's a lot of pointless subplots that try to hold our interest, but never go anywhere. Paul's worried that his wife (Rashida Jones) is cheating on him with their neighbor. There are two other cops (Kevin Pollak and Adam Brody) investigating the drug dealers. There's also a beautiful young woman (Ana de la Reguera) who is on the run from the villains and wants Jimmy and Paul's help, but can only speak Spanish. She's in the movie to provide sexy eye candy (which she does quite well), but never grabs our attention in any meaningful way.
It's hard to believe that so many talented people can be involved with a comedy as tone deaf as Cop Out. It doesn't earn any laughs, it's not shot particularly well, and the action sequences are instantly forgettable. A lot of this has to do with the fact that the director is Kevin Smith (Zack and Miri Make a Porno), a man who knows how to write some very funny dialogue, but even he himself admits that he is not very strong behind the camera. So why allow him to helm a fast-paced action movie? Everything seems off due to Smith's inexperience, especially the pacing. I'm not saying the guy's not allowed to branch out from his usual dialogue-heavy films, but this probably wasn't the best project suited for him. Speaking of dialogue, the movie certainly could have used some of his trademark wit. Instead, screenwriters Robb and Mark Cullen allow nearly every gag they set up to fall flat with a deafening thud.
Consider the scene where Jimmy and Paul stop a car thief, only to have it turn out to be a foul-mouthed 11-year-old boy. Why is this scene funny? The movie seems to think it's because the kid drops four-letter-words every two seconds, and strikes one of the cops in the privates. A good screenplay could have possibly made this funny. Instead, we get Bruce Willis threatening to tell the kid's mother about what he's done, and the boy breaks down in tears. End of scene. Or how about the scene at the beginning when Tracy Morgan is interrogating a suspect by quoting movies? He quotes everything from Al Pacino in Heat, to Batman, to Schindler's List, and even Dirty Dancing. Yeah, we smile at first, but the scene just keeps on going and going to the point that we just want him to stop. Same goes for the scene where Morgan goes into graphic detail about his bowel movements, and just keeps on going long after we got the joke. We start being mildly amused, and just end up disgusted and bored.
Cop Out is the worst kind of comedy. It's not funny, but it desperately thinks it is, and just keeps on hitting you over the head, hoping you'll laugh. Despite the movie's insistence, I think you'll find the urge to resist laughing quite simple. It's an obnoxious, rancid little movie made by people who should have known better.
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