‘Cop Out': Misfire, By Kurt Loder

Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan are dumb and dumberer in Kevin Smith's latest.

The bad news about “Cop Out,” some will probably think, is that Kevin Smith didn’t write it. He did direct it, but unfortunately that’s bad news, too. The good news? There is no good news.

The movie is an uncalled-for attempt to resurrect the buddy-cop film genre of the 1980s. As you’ll recall, those action comedies mined their laughs from the antics of ill-matched crime fighters, one of them a somewhat straight arrow (Danny Glover, say, or Nick Nolte), the other a complete loon (Mel Gibson, for example, or Eddie Murphy). “Cop Out” botches this basic concept. Its two detectives, Jimmy Monroe (Bruce Willis) and Paul Hodges (Tracy Morgan), are starved of the zingy banter these films require by the limp script, which was concocted before Smith was hired on by TV guys Robb and Mark Cullen. And since Willis is so oddly inscrutable here — he has the animated presence of a man waiting for a check to clear — the picture must rely for its yocks on Morgan, the sort of noisy comic who’s in your face and over the top and then behind your back pulling your pants down. In a desperate mood, the filmmakers might try to sell this movie as satire. But satire is supposed to be smart. “Cop Out,” among other things, offers us the sight of a detective on a stake-out disguised as a giant cell phone.

Because of their predictably unorthodox methods, Monroe and Hodges are little-loved by their superiors. In fact, they’ve both just been suspended, without pay. This is especially bad news for Monroe, who needs to come up with $48,000 to pay for his daughter’s wedding — which will otherwise be gloatingly funded by her snotty stepfather (Jason Lee). Monroe’s only salable asset is a very rare baseball card, a treasured boyhood gift from his father. But just as he’s about to make a big-bucks deal for it at a memorabilia shop, two robbers burst in and loudly taser Monroe, loudly rip off his card, and loudly make their getaway. Hodges is standing right outside the shop window, but he doesn’t hear any of this because … he’s making a phone call.

The boys soon find themselves in league with Seann William Scott, giving the movie’s only live-wire performance as a burglar whose professional calling card is taking a dump in the houses he loots. (This is not a movie that shies away from poop humor.) There’s also a showdown with a Mexican drug-gang boss (Guillermo Diaz), a trash-talking 11-year-old, a by-the-book car chase (action isn’t the director’s natural métier), and some labored hottie interaction (with Ana de la Reguera, far too classy for these proceedings).

There are lots of old-movie references, as you’d expect, and even a couple of knock-knock jokes, which you probably wouldn’t. The picture has no comic rhythm, and no action style. It sits on the screen imploring you to take an interest, when your interest lies elsewhere — over by the exit.

Don’t miss Kurt Loder’s review of “The Yellow Handkerchief,” also new in theaters this week.

Check out everything we’ve got on Cop Out.”

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