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“Cop Out” cops out of being funny

March 8, 2010

Cop Out (2010) is an homage to the geeky buddy cop movies of the 1980s. It stars Tracy Morgan and Bruce Willis as two New York cops who screw up in the course of duty and gets suspended. Of course, in the movies, cops never accept suspensions. Morgan and Willis team up to track down an expensive baseball card. Whey do they need it? So that Willis can pay for his daughter’s expensive dream wedding. Are you weeping? Here is the tissue. In the mean time the duo is dodging deadly Mexican drug dealers and trading one-liners with an obnoxious burglar, played by Sean William Scott.

This film has been getting a lot of flak in the press for it’s underserving nature of the price of a movie ticket. For a film that I normally would not have seen, in a genre that I normally do not tend to gush about, I am surprisingly moved to chime in here.  “Cop Out”, in my opinion, is not so much a bad movie as simply a movie with a lot of bad choices.

First and foremost, Kevin Smith, god bless him, is the wrong director for this film. For someone who has turned out the genuine likes of “Chasing Amy”, “Dogma”, and “Zack and Miri Make a Porno,” it is obvious that Smith is a smart guy with an astute sense of humor. No matter how raunchy the topic or content is, there is always a thread of wit and sharp observation that ties a Kevin Smith film together. You get the sense that you’re watching a film made with intelligence, with actors who understand their characters, and that any absurdities are included to be mocked, rather than believed.

“Cop Out”, the first film that Smith directed without writing, is sadly none of the above. A big reason, I gather, is because Smith didn’t write the script, but directed it as if he did. The film is billed as an over-the-top comedy, but it is not really that. Instead of being outrageously excessive and a parady to the fullest in the vein of The Scary Movie type, “Cop Out” falls flat just underneath. It tries to be both a drama AND a comedy, inserting this ridiculous plotline of Mexican druglord and kidnapping in between bouts of toilet humor that frankly, no one really gives a damn about. By wavering between being serious and being goofy, without a genius script that allows seamless transitions between the two, “Cop Out” just comes across as confused and unengaging. I was never sure why I would care about a man who was just murdered in cold blood when the very next scene involves two cops making jokes about the dead man’s shoes. Moments of this film are funny, but the audience possesses emotions as well as humor, and by jerking us around from one funny moment to the next with drags of meaningless dead air in between, “Cop Out” loses the audience’s empathy.

That’s not to say that “Cop Out” is worthless. Like I said, moments of it are brilliantly funny. Most of it can be attributed to Tracy Morgan’s amazing physical comedy. From his days on Saturday Night Live to his stint on 30 Rock, Morgan has perfected this innocent persona of naiveté that works so well for him. In one scene Morgan and Willis find themselves in a face-off with the Mexican druglord in his house. The druglord yells: “Don’t raise your voice in my house” and Morgan, straight-faced, wipes his nose with the back of his hand like a little kid, and I can’t help but burst out in laughter along with the rest of the audience. Willis is a matching partner to Morgan, but underutilized and wasted here. He has a couple of funny moments in the car, especially one with Sean William Scott and Morgan, but mostly he just plays the older, wiser, tired cop, and it is tiring to watch.

“Cop Out” is full of pop culture in-jokes, cornball slapstick involving bodily functions described in excessive detail. That can be fun, had the whole film not been simply excessive without being smart about it, and there in lies its downfall. Kevin Smith is a witty director, but here it feels like his wit is all worn out by the excessive repetition of “I’M FUNNY!!!” tagline of the film. “Cop Out” opens with a cheesy shot of Willis and Morgan strolling to Beastie Boys’ “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” in slow motion and does. not. stop. Although there are a few moments that made me laugh outloud, or as the texters call it – LOL, they never last past the scene. And despite my love for Beastie Boys, it left me yawning by the end of the first hour.

p.s. I kind of wonder what would’ve happened if someone outrageous, like Tarantino, got his hands on this film instead. He probably would’ve thrown out the script and wrote his own, for starters, and the world would be a better place for it.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. March 8, 2010 2:03 PM

    Amen to that. This is the kind of film that looks like I wish it were a Tarantino film. It is like I want to go see it because I think it will be like QT. But I know it’s not.

    Grace: QT can make anything fun.

  2. March 8, 2010 4:04 PM

    Nice to see you write about a film that, I think it’s fair to say, is of a lower caliber than the more substantial films I’ve read your reviews of in the past. We may not need films like Cop Out as much as we need films like Yi-Yi or The Hurt Locker, but we certainly need thoughtful reviews of them just as much as we need thoughtful reviews of any film.

    Kevin Smith is a distinctive director who I hope to see some more interesting work from in the future. And I’m glad that Tracy Jordan has 30 Rock to show us just how funny he can be when he’s got great material to work with.

    Grace: I am self-selective but not intentionally. It was actually refreshing to write about a film that I’m not totally in love with, for a change. You’re right about Kevin Smith, he has some good stuff left in him that’s still waiting to come out.

  3. March 8, 2010 6:20 PM

    I’m with Carolyn. Also amazed that you felt passionate enough to zero in on what’s wrong with the movie, rather than trashing the film as a whole. I mean, I know I wouldn’t have had the patience to write about what went wrong in, say, Spiceworld (everything).

    I’m also glad to hear that Kevin Smith didn’t write the script. Unlike James Cameron, he can actually write dialogue. I wouldn’t rank him with the likes of Mamet, Linklater, and Tarantino, but he’s still pretty good.

    And speaking of Tarantino, did anyone here see Grindhouse?

  4. DAG permalink
    March 8, 2010 7:03 PM

    Well, I have to admit, I’m surprised to see this review today. I fully realise this sounds closed-minded, but you couldn’t pay me to sit through anything associated with Kevin Smith – and yes, I did actually endure a Jay and Silent Bob movie. I do believe it permanently scarred me.

    Speaking of movies that don’t meet expectations, last night I watched Where the Wild Things Are. That movie just didn’t work for me, and I couldn’t understand Spike Jonze’s choices in characterisation.

    Ah well, I’m waiting now for whatever Zip sends me next.

    Grace: wow, is everyone so used to my good taste in films? ;) I’ll have to start branching out.

    Give Kevin Smith a break. The man’s talented.

  5. March 8, 2010 7:58 PM

    I wonder if Kevin Smith needed the paycheck.

  6. March 9, 2010 2:03 PM

    You just managed to make me want to see Cop Out, just for the moments of Kevin Smith brilliance. Well played :)

    Grace: um, that’s not what I meant…the moments of brilliance here is not a Smith one…I repeat, not here.

  7. March 9, 2010 7:29 PM

    Grace: um, that’s not what I meant…the moments of brilliance here is not a Smith one…I repeat, not here.

    Duly noted :)
    You’ve piqued my interest, though, so I guess I’ll have to see for myself.

  8. March 12, 2010 9:31 AM

    Its great movee.I have seen it , and want to see again. btw thanks for your this

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