Movie critics are reading "Let's Be Cops" the riot act. Although the comedy starring Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. as a pair of buddy cops who aren't really cops has a solid premise, reviews say, the dreary script is unfit for duty.
Robert Abele in The Times says that while "there's an appealing hint of misadventure in a title like 'Let's Be Cops,' as well as in the first few scenes," that only makes "the rote, slipshod and unfunny rest of the movie all the more dispiriting — like a drug that's as much fun as precinct paperwork."
Abele adds that "'Let's Be Cops' is its own movie in disguise: a role-playing romp that's actually a generic buddy-cop movie." Johnson and Wayans, for their part, "are likable enough … but the movie relies too much on the same comic tension in each scene: Johnson is the gung-ho one, Wayans Jr. says no (a lot)."
Writing for RogerEbert.com, Brian Tallerico similarly says, "Despite a premise rife with potential dark humor, there's too little edge in 'Let's Be Cops.' Director/co-writer Luke Greenfield chose wacky over witty and the result is a film with no sense of danger, no reason to care and not enough laughs to make the sitcomish handling of a strong premise forgivable." Johnson and Wayans "are two talented actors," but the film "goes absolutely nowhere."
The Hollywood Reporter's Frank Scheck calls "Cops" a "witless high-concept comedy" and says it "fails to mine the potentially humorous premise for the necessary laughs, with nearly all of the gags falling thuddingly flat." Eventually the movie "lurches into action movie territory, complete with the sort of violence and brutality that is tonally at odds with the farcical set-up."
As for Johnson and Wayans, Scheck says, "While they demonstrate a genuine onscreen chemistry, the lead performers are thoroughly adrift, with Wayans mainly displaying pained expressions throughout and Johnson devolving into unfunny boorish mode."
The Wrap's Alonso Duralde agrees that "the premise is simple but full of unfulfilled potential." And although the cast is "loaded with people who have been hilarious elsewhere," the script "mires the performers in stale situations, flat characters, and setups that almost never pay off in a satisfying way."
A few critics are letting "Let's Be Cops" off with a slap on the wrist. Among them is Variety's Joe Leydon, who grants that "The mix of raucous buffoonery and violent mayhem isn't exactly seamless, and the laugh-out-loud moments come with conspicuously less frequency during a third act that suggests a rough draft for 'Bad Boys 3.'" Still, he says "Cops" offers "sporadically hilarious funny business" and is "relatively restrained by the contemporary standards of R-rated raunch."