letsbecops1

Reader, do not underestimate my willingness to watch the stars of New Girl screw around with one-half of Key and Peele when I recommend to you the undeniably conventional Let’s Be Cops. Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. – wacky roommates of the aforementioned New Girl, which is really great, FYI – make for an endearing pair in Luke Greenfield’s totally disposable big screen comedy, all about two losers who pose as LAPD for a lark and then become embroiled in an underworld sting. The presence of sketch star Keegan-Michael Key as a criminal informant and Rob Riggle as an against-type reasonable human bolster an underwhelming script, as does the presence of funny people Jon Lajoie and Natasha Leggero. You aim a camera at these actors for 100 minutes you’ll accidentally make something halfway watchable. Let’s Be Cops exceeds even that miniscule bar by being at least three quarters watchable.

Johnson – playing failed footballer Ryan O’Malley – showed off dramatic depth in Drinking Buddies and Safety Not Guaranteed, and he brings surprising heft to his role here as an also-ran overly committed to this game of dress-ups. His chemistry with Wayans Jr. – as Ryan’s roommate, timid videogame designer Justin Miller – is what makes Let’s Be Cops worth a damn at all; buoying the movie when it should sink in the unexpectedly serious third act. Wayans Jr., a graduate of the dearly departed Happy Endings, has astounding physical comedy chops, like his dad before him. It’s a shame then he’s saddled with the romantic subplot, having to romance the pretty, empty, underwritten waitress Josie (Nina Dobrev, struggling). Meanwhile, Johnson is off harassing street kids with his police cruiser, purchased off eBay. Some actors have all the fun.

letsbecops2

The flick was released at an exceptionally bad time in the States; just as the police began using highly questionable force to quell protesters in Ferguson, Missouri. (Ferguson is the name of the cat in New Girl too. Coincidence? Definitely.) That didn’t keep it from becoming a surprise summer hit, grossing just shy of $100 million at the box office. Though you could look to that statistic as an indictment of a nation unwilling to acknowledge the danger in fetishising gunplay and government-authorised brutality, it wouldn’t necessarily be fair to Let’s Be Cops. Its trailers may promise a voyeuristic, morality free entrée into the world of sanctioned tasing and tax-payer funded car chases, yet the picture itself makes a point of suggesting police work is not for would-be cowboys; that there is legitimate danger in the job and the split-second decision making it requires should be taken seriously (maybe more seriously than it’s being taken by some real cops out there). But panic not. There is also a scene in which Wayans Jr.’s character gets the balls of a downed, naked perp dragged across his face, because this isn’t Fruitvale Station. Let’s Be Cops is for viewers who, like me, are sometimes just happy to see their favourite actors collecting paychecks and being silly at the same time.