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Review

Cheap humor weakens Kevin Smith’s latest film

Michael Brun

March 5, 2010

In the opening minutes of “Cop Out,” star Tracy Morgan spouts off more movie quotes than I could count. Among them is the famous “Yippeeki- yay…” line from “Die Hard.” After he says it, the scene cuts to a smiling Bruce Willis who, with his tongue planted firmly in his cheek, claims to have never seen that movie before. This exchange pretty well sums up the tone of the entire film. “Cop Out” is a silly, self-referential tribute to the buddy cop genre.

Laughs come quick and dirty in this action/comedy, usually the result of some toilet humor or a well-timed f-bomb. It’s the kind of film that works best if you can turn off your higher brain functions. So long as you keep your expectations low and don’t take it too seriously, you’ll probably have a good time.

On the beat in Brooklyn, police detectives Jimmy (Willis) and Paul (Morgan) celebrate their 9-year partnership by trying to stop an ambitious drug dealer from taking over the streets. After spectacularly botching an undercover sting, they get suspended and removed from the case. However, after a series of comical misfortunes, they find themselves face-to-face with the dealer they wanted to bust.

Vulgarity is the name of the game in “Cop Out.” Nothing is sacred in this film, which comes off as though it were written by a couple of giggling junior high schoolers. It’s sleazy and offensive, but mildly enjoyable due in part to the actors’ performances. Tracy Morgan plays Tracy Morgan (love him or hate him), and Bruce Willis plays a slightly more unhinged John McClane. These are certainly not challenging roles for the duo, but they provide an air of lightheartedness that keeps the film playful and fun.

Every aspect of the film’s plot pays homage to 80s buddy cop movies. It’s “Beverly Hills Cop” meets “Lethal Weapon,” complete with every genre cliché and stereotype imaginable. Like 2007’s “Hot Fuzz,” “Cop Out” is more of a tribute than a parody. It pokes fun at the ridiculousness of the genre, but it does so with loving fondness. Unfortunately, its plot never feels as tightly structured or witty as “Hot Fuzz.”

You might not know it, but “Cop Out” is the latest film from director Kevin Smith. The one-time king of indie comedy, he hit it big in the 90s with cult classics like “Clerks” and “Mallrats.” Although Smith didn’t pen the screenplay for “Cop Out” (a first for the writer/director), it has enough geeky pop culture references that it fits with the rest of his oeuvre. It also features a cameo by long-time Kevin Smith collaborator Jason Lee.

One or two solid laughs aside, “Cop Out” fails to match the hilariousness of Smith’s previous films. Easily his most mainstream outing to date, it’s also among his weakest. I don’t blame him for trying something different, but it’s just not that funny. For every joke that works, several more fall flat. Also, some of the best gags have already been spoiled by the trailer.

Unless you’re a huge Kevin Smith or Tracy Morgan fan, you can probably skip “Cop Out.” It’s a decent enough tribute to buddy cop movies, but its lack of intelligence prevents it from being anything more than a forgettable farce. If you do plan on seeing it, don’t expect anything more than a few cheap laughs.

Michael Brun is an alumnus of UW-River Falls.