It's not that hard to make a decent, mainstream comedy. I may not rave about them at every opportunity, but films like We're The Millers and The Incredible Burt Wonderstone are movies that do all that I require from them. They keep me happy, and often chuckling, for the duration. So why do so many movies get it wrong, either relying on the talent/charisma of some leading player who doesn't have the right stuff, or simply misfiring most of the gags? It's a mystery, especially when you get to enjoy a film like Let's Be Cops, a slice of fun that works so well mainly because of a fantastic premise, helped by the chemistry between the two leading men.
Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. star as, respectively, Ryan and Justin. The two men aren't where they want to be in their lives. A blunt, cruel person might even simply refer to them as losers. But things take a turn for the better when they decide to go to a party one evening dressed as cops. They soon realise that a lot of people are looking at them differently, looking at them as if they are real cops. Caught up in the good feeling, the two decide to take things farther than they should, eventually landing themselves in some major hot water when they take on a criminal (James D'Arcy) who isn't afraid to threaten even officers of the law.
I could say that Let's Be Cops is a bit of an easy ride for everyone involved. It just seems impossible to screw up, but that's only something I can think now because it wasn't screwed up. You just need to watch the similar(-ish) Ride Along to see the material being twisted into something inferior for the sake of making it into a star vehicle. This movie isn't a star vehicle, yet Wayans Jr. and Johnson come out of it shining brightly.
The direction from Luke Greenfield, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Nicholas Thomas, is solid. Everything moves from A to B quickly enough, and the only major complaint about the plotting is how predictable things become in the second half. But it's a predictability that, like everything else in the movie, simply enhances the fun. It's a comforting set of twists and turns showing that a plot HAS actually been wrapped around the comedic set-pieces without ever taking too much time away from the laughs.
As much as I'm tempted to, I won't go on and on about the two leading men any more. They're both brilliant, individually and when sharing their many scenes together. Nina Dobrev does as well as can be expected in the role of Josie AKA the love interest for Wayans Jr. It's a potentially thankless part to play, but Dobrev still manages to bring something more to the table than just her attractive looks. D'Arcy is a convincingly cold villain, and always feels like a viable threat, even before things really heat up for our two leads. Rob Riggle and Andy Garcia are both excellent as two very different law enforcement officers, with the former coming along at just the right time to save the movie from any potential lull in proceedings. And I can't forget to mention the scene-stealing turns from Natasha Leggero and Keegan-Michael Key. Leggero plays a woman turned on by the cops who need to use her home as a surveillance point, while Key is a helpful informant who just doesn't know when to keep inappropriate comments to himself.
It's not the most sophisticated comedy you'll ever see, and it's also far from the funniest, but Let's Be Cops proves to be surprisingly effective at mixing some big laughs with characters you end up actually caring about. Which makes it more deserving of your time than at least 80% of the mainstream comedies that have tried to take your money in the last few years.