Nearly every red-blooded American boy dreams of being a cop when he grows up. Most wind up with other careers, but the relatively few brave souls who pursue that dream are generally regarded as society’s protectors against all manner of criminal behavior.
The new movie “Let’s Be Cops” features two men who are going nowhere in their lives, but who get the chance to pretend to be cops. But with only TV-fueled fantasies and no sense of responsibility driving them, the results are often-hilarious yet sometimes morally questionable fun.
Justin (Damon Wayans Jr.) and Ryan (Jake Johnson) are two best friends whose dreams in life are slipping away. Justin works at a video-game company and wants to sell a concept about heroic cops as a game, but his bosses laugh at him and decide to feature zombies instead. Ryan is a former star college quarterback who has never figured out what to do with his life after an injury ended his playing days.
When they attend their college reunion wearing full-on cop costumes while others are simply wearing masquerade masks, Justin feels they’ve made fools of themselves but Justin sees opportunity in the fact their classmates truly believe they’re police. When beautiful women hug and kiss them on the street and they manage to make people freeze by touching their unloaded guns, Ryan gets the idea that they should really push the idea of playing cops as far as it can go.
Justin tries to stay responsible at his job while Ryan buys an old cop car on Ebay and redecorates it to look like a real LAPD cruiser. But when they run afoul of a gang that’s extorting innocent shop-owners, and humiliate the thugs while preventing the collection of shakedown money, the gang’s crime boss orders them captured or killed and the fake cops are suddenly in real danger, with only a couple of clueless real cops to support them since they fear getting caught and charged with serious crimes due to their duplicity.
Amid this main plot thread, there are numerous very funny scenes mining the difference between how cops are shown in movies and TV and what Ryan comes to learn about the harsher realities actual police face. A lot of the situations are good-natured slapstick fun, but a couple of scenes cross the line into raunchy territory, particularly one in which Ryan is inexplicably tackled by a sumo-sized naked Asian man.
There are also a pair of unnecessary scenes in which a young woman (Natasha Leggero) writhes (while clothed) around her apartment in an attempt to seduce Justin and Ryan as they try to set up surveillance cameras from her windows. Neither takes the bait and both are shown being offended by her behavior.
The movie also has an unfortunately high level of foul language, with well over 150 profanities and obscenities including F-words, S-words, A-words and occasionally God’s name in vain. While profane, Ryan’s attempts to yell at mean kids and help a loser kid score social points by riding along on his misadventures are also funny.
SPOILER ALERTS: But by the end, the guys have learned their lesson while helping the real cops save the day and take down the gang. Justin learns to be bold and re-launches his cop video game to great success, and Ryan is honored along with the real cops.
“Let’s Be Cops” has plenty of illicit and illegal behavior (including marijuana smoking by the “heroes” in the first half) fraught with deception and lies, but it’s all so ridiculous that it’s hard to take seriously or imagine that it will influence any real-life copycats. Wayans Jr. and Johnson build on their chemistry as castmates in Fox TV’s “New Girl” and are fantastic in their roles here, with Johnson funny in almost every ridiculous thing he says or does.
That said, this is definitely a movie for adults, especially due to its frequent bad language. “Let’s Be Cops” is good-natured and silly enough to rarely be truly offensive, but extreme caution is warranted and it is not for the easily offended. Those who can tune out the profanity though will find much of it will foster big laughs.