There are two elements in a buddy cop movie — serious or funny — that have to work. The cops need to connect as friends and be entertaining.
"Let's Be Cops" comes close on both, but it never finds the comic to work. This tale of two pals who enjoy playing cops is less of a felony failure and more of a mundane misdemeanor.
Buddy cop movies work best when one partner is level-headed and the other is near psychotic.
Damon Wayans Jr. does a passable job as the more reality based member of the team. He's a 30-year-old video game developer who has lived a life of missed opportunities. There's a nice vulnerability to the way Wayans plays the role.
The failure falls to Jake Johnson. He's an ex-jock living on his college football glory days and the $11,000 he earned making a herpes commercial. It's through his prodding the pair turn what starts out as a mistake about a costume party into a faked career in law enforcement.
Being a cop isn't like saying, "Hey, I'm going to pretend to be a fast-food cook or librarian." The simple fact guns are involved makes this a dangerous job to take on as a lark. Johnson's character needed to be so manic that his buddy couldn't end the charade before something bad happens.
Wayans and Johnson come across as the two guys that were cast after actors like Eddie Murphy and Jack Black turned down the roles. They are a B-teaming at best.
As for the police part, there are a few funny moments when the faux cops are shaking down drug users for their dope or using their police powers to steal a few pizzas. There's also a scene where they get mistaken for strippers that makes no sense.
Anyone who has seen a buddy cop movie will guess the big plot twists before they happen. It's such a trite story that it takes away from the fun moments before the fake cops try to act like the real thing.
It doesn't help that not everyone is in on the jokes. James D'Arcy plays his role as a crime boss with a scary intensity and Andy Garcia looks like he's wandered over from the set of a serious crime story. The only supporting player who seems to understand this is a comedy is Natasha Leggero as a lustful resident in an apartment the buddy cops use for a stakeout. Hers is the kind of absurd character that should have been the norm.
"Let's Be Cops" has neither the intensity to be another "48 Hrs." nor the comic zaniness of a "The Heat." Had it been more like either of those movies, it would have been an arresting effort. Instead, you get off with just a warning of the missed opportunities.
"Let's Be Cops," rated R for language, nudity, drug use. Stars Damon Wayans Jr., Jake Johnson, James D'Arcy, Nina Dobrev. Directed by Luke Greenfield. Running time: 109 minutes. Grade: C-