Cop Out (Warner Bros., R)

This could all be fine if the movie were funny, which it isn’t.

 

Cop Out marks the first time that Kevin Smith (Clerks, Chasing Amy) has directed a script that he didn’t write. Funny turn of events, given that many of his biggest critics contend that he should give up directing and stick to writing—he’s great with writing funny dialogue, and terrible with basic directorial duties such as culling convincing performances from his actors, overseeing mise-en-scene, or keeping most aspects of his films from going too far over the top. So why would he direct a film he didn’t write, when writing is clearly his strength? And further, why would Warner Bros. hire him to direct a script he didn’t write?

I used to be a huge fan of Smith’s, and love many of his earlier films to this day. Recently he’s taken a pretty severe creative downturn, though—I felt his last film, 2008’s Zack & Miri Make a Porno, was probably the worst film of his career (yes, including Jersey Girl), and his public persona has gotten much more grating, too, given his predilection toward talking about how much he loves Twitter and turning into kind of an asshole on his commentaries (listen to the ones on Clerks 2 if you want evidence of this). To his credit, Smith has seemed to be trying to grow as a filmmaker, what with the fact that he served as editor on Zack & Miri (as well he did again on Cop Out), but that experiment only served to find another thing that Smith can’t do competently. Perhaps his directing a script he didn’t write is an extension of this trying of new things, but sadly, the end result is worse than his dabbling in editing.

Cop Out is a buddy cop movie starring Tracy Morgan (as good cop Paul) and Bruce Willis (as bad cop Jimmy), who quickly get suspended from duties for a month after botching a job and then have to solve a crime vigilante-style in order to save their dignity and Jimmy’s daughter Ava’s (Michelle Trachtenberg) wedding, which will be expensive and can’t be paid for when Jimmy has to withstand a month without pay. Along the way they meet a mimicking poop bandit named Dave (Seann William Scott), a very determined homeowner (Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Susie Essman), and all manner of Mexican bad guys.

This could all be fine if the movie were funny, which it isn’t. What’s more, a lot of good actors are wasted in small, poorly-directed roles, such as the aforementioned Essman, or Rashida Jones as Paul’s wife, or Kevin Pollack as rival cop Hunsaker. (Seann William Scott comes off better, as does Jason Lee, who turns up as Ava’s jerkface stepdad.) On the other hand, one person who could have used more wasting is the insufferable Adam Brody, who has maybe never been more annoying (and that’s saying something) as Pollack’s partner Barry.

But really, the main problem is the script, which was written by Robb & Mark Cullen, who are best known at this point for writing TV, such as Las Vegas. This is the type of script that thinks, Family Guy or Shrek-style, that referencing pop culture endlessly to no real end whatsoever is automatically funny, no matter how poorly or nonsensically it fits into the script. Perhaps worse than that is when Jimmy loses a prized baseball card, and spends the remainder of the movie whining about finding ‘his card.’ I don’t recall ever hating Bruce Willis more.

Suffice it to say, Cop Out now holds the dubious title of being Kevin Smith’s worst movie. My only concern is that it will only hold that title until his next one. | Pete Timmermann
 

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