“Cop Out” cops out of being funny
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.