Tale of a gonzo cop and his partner

Bruce Willis (left) and Tracy Morgan play Brooklyn police detectives who are partners.
Bruce Willis (left) and Tracy Morgan play Brooklyn police detectives who are partners.
Posted: February 26, 2010

It's tough to screw up an omelet. But it can certainly be done.

The good cop/crazy cop routine is a fluffy, almost fail-proof Hollywood action-comedy formula. But Cop Out, starring Tracy Morgan and Bruce Willis, still does it injustice.

It's a hyper procession of comic cliches, unimaginatively tacked together by director Kevin Smith. (Yeah, the guy who recently got booted by Southwest Airlines for billowing beyond his allotted seat space. Now that has the makings of a decent comedy.)

As is usually true with this genre, the film rises and falls with the mood swings of its gonzo lead - in this case, Morgan.

The 30 Rock standout is a pinballing cartoon as Paul Hodges, a police detective in Brooklyn who is a few chairs short of a patio set.

Morgan attacks the role with such wild abandon that at several points, spittle flies out of his mouth. His sweet, unhinged persona is delightful - but doesn't sustain over the length of a feature film.

Willis plays his more grounded partner, Jimmy Monroe. There are things the seasoned action star does well, but hilarity is not one of them.

While the pairing has obvious box-office potential, it never really gels on screen. So Cop Out rustles a remarkably large herd of supporting actors through the chute one by one, hoping to jolly the audience along.

You get everyone from Guillermo Diaz (Weeds) as a baseball-mad drug boss, to Susie Essman (Curb Your Enthusiasm) as a foulmouthed homeowner.

Cursing is rampant in this film. Subtitles are even provided for the vulgarities spoken in Spanish. Was that really necessary? We got the gist without an explicit translation.

Smith swipes elements from any number of buddy-cop predecessors. Seann William Scott as the manic comic foil? Think Joe Pesci in the Lethal Weapon franchise.

You also get the obligatory rival detectives (here, Kevin Pollak and Adam Brody) who ride and deride our principal crime-fighters (Bad Boys, et al.).

Alarmingly, Smith seems to have borrowed the score from Harold Faltermeyer's Casio-chintzy contributions to Beverly Hills Cop with Eddie Murphy. For much of Cop Out, the music is so intrusive and excruciating, it feels like you're trapped inside a Ms. Pac-Man machine.

You want to cut Cop Out some slack because it's just so darn eager to please. So let's grant that it will make a reliably fun companion when it's on cable 10 times a week. But it's not worth shelling out cineplex money for a comedy that gets its biggest laugh from a crotch kick.


Contact staff writer David Hiltbrand at 215-854-4552 or dhiltbrand@phillynews.com. Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/daveondemand.

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