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Review: 'Let's Be Cops' ★ 1/2

The laughs are loud, lewd and low in "Let's Be Cops," a spoof of cop "buddy pictures" that is pretty much the definition of an August comedy.

The last month of summer is typically a dumping ground for titles studios don't have high hopes for. Sometimes that's due to the lack of marketable stars. Sometimes, they're just too hard to market, period. And sometimes, if they're comedies, it's because the belly laughs are few and far between. All of those apply here.

Jake Johnson of TV's "New Girl" is paired with another generation of Wayans — Damon Wayans Jr. — in this farce about two Ohio losers losing their way through Los Angeles, a tough place to be a single guy with zero status.

Justin (Wayans) is a meek and mousy video game developer. Ryan (Johnson) is an ex-jock who once quarterbacked for Purdue but now spends his days roughing up kids in pickup games on a local playground. Nobody gives either of these guys a second look.

Justin's cop-centric video game may have been rejected by his bullying boor of a boss, but the police gear he has around the house is handy to have when he and Ryan want to drop in on an alumni costume party. People there mistake them for police. Women eyeball these manly men in uniform. And Ryan, who used to feel the love of the crowd, gets hooked: "Let's be cops!"

Next thing you know, they're walking the streets in uniform with fake guns and fake name tags. Justin is "Officer Chang." Ryan is way in — trading his battered '80s Camaro for an eBay police cruiser, adding decals and lights, boning up on police procedure, listening for real police calls on a scanner.

"The plan is we control the situation," he growls. "That's what the YouTube video says!"

Things get more and more out of hand, from domestic disturbances that turn out to be spirited sorority girl brawls to tangles with the Russian mob. The psychotic head mobster Mossi (James D'Arcy) is not amused.

Co-writer/director Luke Greenfield ("Something Borrowed") lets what few laughs there are land. Johnson's timing is sharp, and Wayans has that Wayans way with dopey under-reactions to crazy situations. Ask that raging sorority girl her name:

"Precious."

"Not your gang name. Or your stripper name. Your real name."

The pairing of these two sometimes works, but Wayans has more of the name and the look than the edge or charismatic comic spark of his dad or his dad's funnier family members.

Johnson has made a number of smart indie film choices that allowed him to shine — "Drinking Buddies," "Safety Not Guaranteed." This one is far more conventional and seriously short of zingers.

"What's the worst that could happen?" The answer to that is, you could end up in a summer comedy that's barely funny enough to warrant — ahem — release in the summer.

"Let's Be Cops" - 1 1/2 stars

MPAA rating: R (for language including sexual references, some graphic nudity, violence and drug use)

Running time: 1:44

Opens: Wednesday

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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