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Cop Out / * (R)

Posted Sunday, March 21, 2010, at 12:08 PM

(Photo)
Tracy Morgan and Bruce Willis strike out in "Cop Out".
Warner Bros. Pictures presents a film directed by Kevin Smith. Written by Robb Cullen and Mark Cullen. Running time: 107 min. Rated R (for pervasive language including sexual references, violence and brief sexuality).

After I get home from watching a film in the theater, I sit down at my computer and go to IMDb.com to look up the credits. I do this mostly for spelling purposes, not because I can't remember who's in the movie or whom they played. With "Cop Out", I had no idea who the characters were. I just couldn't care to listen to their names during the film. I found it hard to care about much of anything in "Cop Out". The filmmakers didn't seem to, why should I?

Oooh. I just realized I am smacking the hell out of these keys as a write. It's like I'm angry at this movie. So, I guess I do care. I care that it should've been a good movie. It's a buddy cop picture, an overdone but fairly reliable genre. It was directed by Kevin Smith, one of the best in the business when it comes to exploring male relationships in a comic light. It stars Bruce Willis in the type of role he became famous for and Tracy Morgan, whose goofiness on "Saturday Night Live" and "30 Rock" has catapulted him to the top of the comedian pile. It has a good comedic supporting cast in Kevin Pollak, Adam Brody, Rashida Jones, and Seann William Scott. So what the hell happened?

Willis and Morgan play veteran police detective partners who blow a stake out and get booted off the force. This is a problem for Willis's Jimmy Monroe, since his daughter is getting married in one month's time, and without his salary he can't foot the $48,000 bill for the wedding and might have to allow her stepfather (Smith veteran Jason Lee in a cameo) to pay for it. Was Jimmy going to make that much money in a month's time on the force?

Meanwhile, Morgan's childlike Paul Hodges suspects his wife (Rashida Jones, "Parks and Recreation") is cheating on him and tries to catch her in the act, never a smart move. In fact, Paul is such an imbecile I find it hard to believe he could qualify to be a security guard at a community swimming pool let alone an NYPD detective. Morgan basically plays the same character here that made him famous on SNL and "30 Rock", a freak whose world outlook is so self-centered and out of touch with reality he could never perform effectively as a detective or in just about any other profession outside of entertainment.

So Jimmy wants to sell a valuable vintage baseball card to pay for his daughter's wedding. While he's having it appraised, the novelty shop is held up and the card stolen. As detectives, Jimmy and Paul are able to do their own recovery work, although their police work mostly consists of instinctively knowing where to be at the right time. They track down the thief, who is played by Seann William Scott ("The Rundown") an even stranger guy than Paul and who seems to randomly practice the rooftop jumping sport of parkour. Somehow this gets them mixed up with the Mexican crime syndicate, but really, none of this matters.

Smith ("Clerks", "Zack and Miri Make a Porno") has come under some fire because this is the first film he's directed from a script he didn't write. He's been accused of selling out to the Hollywood machine, an accusation he has correctly deflected. What astounds me, however, is how he (and Willis) could've chosen such a poor script. The screenplay by Robb and Mark Cullen, with whom Smith worked on the failed cable pilot "Manchild", is flatter than flat. The jokes are uninspired and the action is strictly small time.

There are some scenes of dialogue, mostly between Morgan and Scott, that have fun running around in insults; but a buddy cop movie should rely less on immature dialogue than it does on plot. The plot in this film is strictly low rent. At one point a major character is killed, and it's treated as if someone's gun jammed, but that didn't really matter because he had another gun anyway. What was the point of the death? Why was that character even there to die in such an insignificant manner?

I laughed out loud only once during "Cop Out". That was during the opening sequence when Paul is interrogating a perp by using famous movie quotations. At one point he quotes a line from "Die Hard" and the Bruce Willis character claims he'd never seen that movie. So there you go. There's your laugh. I just saved you ten bucks.

"Cop Out" is currently playing at Marshall Cinema and Galaxy Cinema in Sedalia.

Visit A Penny in the Well for DVDs, film clips, star rating scale, and my most recent Penny Thoughts.



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ANDREW D. WELLS
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Andrew is a professionally trained actor and stage director. He was a reporter for the daily newspaper The Marshall Democrat News. He has been critiquing film since Mr. Lucas released the first of his "Star Wars" prequels in 1999. His reviews can also be seen at his blog site.
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