It is a movie requisite that characters be gullible. Need to infiltrate the Luftwaffe? No problem. Just commandeer a German officer’s uniform and intimidate the guards with a bad accent. “Yeah, that’s easy,” you say. “But what about a doctor? Don’t those guys have to go to school?” Yes, they go to school — acting school. Step one: access the unlocked laundry closet and remove a doctor’s jacket (the stethoscope is in the right pocket). Step two: say “Stat!” a lot. Step three: pawn the actual diagnosis off to one of the residents, adding, “I’m going to assess your performance, newbie!”
And so it goes with 30-something failures Ryan O’Malley (Jake Johnson) and Justin Miller (Damon Wayans Jr.) who enjoy so much the newfound respect their masquerade uniforms give them they decide, “Let’s Be Cops!”
The only problem is that they never actually go to the academy. O’Malley merely buys an old police cruiser from eBay and the two drive around lapping up the perks. At one point they cross a Russian mobster and get tangled in a complicated conspiracy that involves a senior detective (Andy García) at the precinct where they regularly meet with a patrol officer (Rob Riggle) who believes them to be super cops.
Formulaic lath on which Johnson plasters a masterpiece; the “New Girl” co-star is hysterical here in his first lead role. His contagious laughter and enthusiasm make his pretend lawman like no other (see sidebar). What starts as just, in Max Cherry’s words, “a young guy havin’ fun being a cop,” quickly evolves into a calling when he realizes he’s found something he’s actually good at. So good, O’Malley gives himself promotions along the way after mastering various police techniques he learns from YouTube videos.
His timid partner, a struggling video game author, is less comfortable in blue but comes around when he learns who his new girlfriend’s old boyfriend is.
García turns in a perfunctory performance but I am a fan and it’s always a treat to watch him. Comic stalwart Riggle surprises here playing a legitimate officer (versus his off-the-wall persona as the tasering cop in “The Hangover”).
Johnson is the standout. His comic timing and delivery are impeccable, making this not just one of the few comedies to live up to its trailer, but one of the funniest films I’ve seen in a long time.
Med City Movie Guy’s rating: 4 Honks
With Nick Nolte‘s borrowed badge, fake cop Eddie Murphy was our worst nightmare in “48 Hours.” Here are, pardon the alliteration, four of filmdom’s other famous faux fuzz:
Al Neri. An “enforcer” for the Corleone family, Neri (Richard Bright) sported a police uniform to whack Don Barzini during the baptism scene of the 1972 classic “The Godfather.”
Lee Woods. James Spader played a baddie in “2 Days in the Valley,” a respectable 1996 “Pulp Fiction” knock-off. He uses the badge he’s taken from one of the two detectives he kills to trick a young undercover agent played by Eric Stoltz. This quirky thriller also starred Jeff Daniels and was one of Charlize Theron’s earliest roles.
Miles Logan. Martin Lawrence played this diamond thief in the 1999 comedy “Blue Streak.” Logan hides the take from a heist in the ventilation shaft of a construction project and returns two years later to find the completed building is a police station. He pretends to be a transferred detective to gain access. Co-stars Luke Wilson and Dave Chappelle.
T-1000. Robert Patrick took the form of the patrolman he eliminated in “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” in pursuit of the young John Connor. This time Arnold Schwarzenegger’s terminator is the good guy. Arguably the best film of the franchise.