Cop Out
They’re trying anything and everything to get people to see this film.

Theatrical Release Date: 02/26/2010
Director: Kevin Smith
Cast: Bruce Willis, Tracy Morgan, Guillermo Díaz, Kevin Pollak, Adam Brody, Rashida Jones, Seann William Scott, Ana de la Reguera, Michelle Trachtenberg, Jason Lee

Getting a lot of commercial push and hitting theaters this weekend is “Cop Out”. A buddy film where two bumbling detectives (Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan) stumble their way into stopping a gang from becoming major drug traffickers, no doubt anyone with a TV has been inundated with the ad spots. However, unless you read the fine print or are in the know, one wouldn’t realize this is also a Kevin Smith film (it doesn’t help that the studio changed the original title, “A Couple of Dicks”, because of marketing reasons).

Best known for satiric, hilarious and sometimes gloriously tasteless humor in films like “Clerks”, “Dogma” and “Zack and Miri Make a Porno“, here he is taking on a new venture – a film whose script isn’t his own. More on that later, but suffice to say, Smith fans may want to take caution before lining up for his return to studio films (his first since “Mallrats”).

Here it falls upon everyone’s favorite disgruntled cop (Willis) and some people’s favorite oddball (Morgan) to carry a weirdly paced film that meanders its way from a clunky start into a formulaic resolution. Along the way, some zany characters throw in their two cents (combining Kevin Pollak and Adam Brody as detective partners is surprisingly funny) and chuckles will be had by all but perhaps not as satisfyingly delivered as one might hope.

Bruce Willis seems to be sleepwalking here and I constantly felt that he wasn’t enjoying himself in the film. The point of the buddy cop film is to have one curmudgeon and one screwball and their banter is more playful than hostile (“Hot Fuzz”, “Lethal Weapon”, etc. etc.). Here, Willis seemed to be genuinely annoyed with his partner at times and Morgan has never been able to shift his comedic antics from being primarily about his wacky character to something a bit more collaborative. Together, they lack chemistry and seeing as that should be the glue of the production, it’s a bit of shame. (Though the last scene of the film finally gets this idea right, it’s too little too late.)

It’s weird to say but Stifler almost saves this movie. But although the trailers are playing up his role, Seann William Scott only gets a few scenes in the overall film. However, they provide the best comedic timing of the production and help to break up the Willis/Morgan freight train of tepidness. His character also does some parkour (humorously defined by Morgan’s character) and I enjoyed seeing the obvious stunt double … but that’s something I always enjoy looking for in films (yes, I’m strange).

The biggest problem with the film overall though is that while Kevin Smith directed the production, he didn’t write it. That task fell to first time feature film writers Robb and Mark Cullen (thankfully no Edward Cullen in the credits). While an avid fan of Smith’s films, without being responsible for the script, it’s as if his soul isn’t in the production. As a director, he doesn’t have a lot of visual flair and it’s apparent that straight action, devoid of comedic value, isn’t his forte. Smith is best when he has quirky characters wisecracking and commentating on the pitiful state of society. Here, you might as well have hired a film student out of college to babysit and call action.

Smith himself has stated in interviews that he wants to branch out as a director and has been disappointed that films like “Zack and Miri” didn’t do better commercially. His next two projects are a hockey film (which will be slightly comedic) and a horror film (which will not be comedic). I can appreciate that he wants to move on in his career but I can’t say I like the idea. For me, Kevin Smith is a comedy director that comes from a different perspective than anyone else. It speaks to a slew of us nerdy/geeky underachievers and it’s sad to see that viewpoint isn’t going to be on-screen again from Smith – at least not in the near future.

As for “Cop Out”, there are some very funny moments and I suppose I liked the experience overall but what I really wanted was a Kevin Smith film, and people should know what they’re getting beforehand. While his name was left off the marketing because they knew his fans would see this and wanted to appeal to the Joe Schmoes of the world, I can see now that it makes even more sense because this is unlike any film that he’s done before (even “Jersey Girl”). A 2.5 out of 5, this does fit the comedic bill if that’s what you’re looking for but just know that this is more of a lukewarm performance from Bruce Willis set against the same Tracey Morgan you’ve seen on “SNL” and “30 Rock” (not necessarily knocking them but a little diversity would be nice). If I had to sum it all up in one word, I’d have to go with ‘meh’.