Here's a question for you: Is it possible for Kevin Smith, king of all slackers, to direct a movie that will cross the $100 million mark at the box office? We just might find out next January, when Warner Bros. plans to release A Couple of Cops. This will be Smith's first major studio release. It will also be his first attempt to direct a film he didn't write.
If you 're feeling an urge to shout "sell out!" at your computer after reading that paragraph, please save your breath. Smith's heard that one plenty of times before, and it's never stopped him from following his instincts as a filmmaker. Not all of his films have measured up to the success of his early classics like Clerks and Chasing Amy, but that's all the more reason for him to change things up a bit. Here are three reasons why I think we shouldn't be cynical about Smith's involvement with A Couple of Cops:
1. Tracy Morgan needs him to direct this movie! In A Couple of Cops, Tracy Morgan and Bruce Willis will play a pair of LAPD detectives trying to track down a stolen vintage baseball card. On 30 Rock and in some of his old SNL skits, Morgan can be hilarious enough to get you lizzing (that's code for laughing + wizzing on 30 Rock) through all of his scenes. But he has yet to appear in a movie that's looked any better than the lame, lowbrow comedies his 30 Rock character favors. Morgan needs a good script and a skilled, experienced director to bring out the best in him. Why not Kevin Smith?
2. It's time to pay it forward. Smith is well-known for being one of the lucky young filmmakers who rose to prominence during the indie film movement of the '90s. Don't you think it's about time these guys started helping out the next generation? Smith apparently does. He found the script for A Couple of Cops on the 2008 Black List, a directory for Hollywood insiders of the best unproduced screenplays of the year. By choosing to direct it, Smith is not only helping newbie screenwriters Robb and Mark Cullen get their big break -- he's helping expose his fans to a pair of new voices in Hollywood. That sounds like a win/win to me.
3. Steven Soderbergh isn't a bad role model. Soderbergh, who came up through the indie ranks just like Smith, is known for charting a "one for them, one for me" trajectory to his career. He'll make a surefire hit (Erin Brockovich, Oceans 11-13) for the studios, and then go off and direct a passion project for himself (Che, Solaris). This method helps to keep him looking bankable to the studios, while also giving himself time to pursue his less marketable dream projects. Before announcing A Couple of Cops as his next project, Smith had been shopping around a script for a horror film called Red State. Smith always knew that Red State wasn't likely to ever become a hit. But maybe he knew that if he made a potential blockbuster with Bruce Willis, it might be easier to get Red State off the ground.
At this point in his career, Smith is too well-known to go back to being the same dude from New Jersey who broke through with Clerks. Let's let him move forward, okay?