The latest R-rated comedy from director Kevin Smith ("Clerks") is immature and sloppy. The cinematography is often frenetic and disorienting. Slapdash editing can't mask occasional continuity problems. And the actors themselves perform more as though in a playground than a workplace.
Fortunately, the movie is also very funny.
New York detectives Jimmy Monroe (Bruce Willis) and Paul Hodges (Tracy Morgan) have been partners for nine years. Jimmy is a no-nonsense veteran struggling to pay for his daughter's lavish wedding before her sleazy stepdad (Smith favorite Jason Lee) can step in and steal the thunder. Paul is an endearing but spastic joker paranoid about his gorgeous wife's fidelity. They are a perfectly dysfunctional pair -- each thrives on the other's peculiarities.
Jimmy's wedding-bill desperation reaches a fever pitch and he's forced to sell an incredibly rare and valuable baseball card. But when the card is swiped by a smart-mouthed thief (Seann William Scott as Dave), Jimmy and Paul get caught in an unpredictable predicament that involves a baseball-loving gangster (Guillermo Diaz), a Spanish-speaking damsel in distress (Ana de la Reguera) and a pair of by-the-book cops (Kevin Pollak and Adam Brody).
Smith is not a genius filmmaker. He doesn't have the cinematic ingenuity of a Quentin Tarantino or a Roman Polanski. Humor is his forte, and he has a great ability to mine comical gems from dialogue, quirky scenarios and the cast. Willis easily tackles a role he could play while sleepwalking. Frankly, it would be refreshing to see Willis try something outside his comfort zone. He has the tough-guy-cop role down pat, and it's getting tiresome. Morgan is implausible as a police officer and comes across almost childlike, though he does inspire plenty of hearty laughter.
The film's best scenes are those with Scott. The dynamic that develops between Dave and Paul is thoroughly entertaining and viewers will likely find themselves wishing Scott had more screen time. Mexican actress de la Reguera ("Nacho Libre") serves up a surprisingly strong performance, one almost more fitting for a drama. She and Scott provide the sparks to an otherwise familiar buddy-cop actioner.
The music by Grammy-winning composer Harold Faltermeyer is reminiscent of his "Beverly Hills Cop" score, almost making "Cop Out" come across as a "Beverly Hills Cop" for the iPod generation. The main difference is that, well, "Beverly Hills Cop" is a better film. Much better.
"Cop Out" is worth a good chuckle -- it just isn't worth a $10 ticket price.