Barbs fall flat in ‘Cop Out’ 

Former “Saturday Night Live” player Tracy Morgan has by now trademarked the dizzy persona that has served him well on the NBC ensemble comedy “30 Rock” and here, in Kevin Smith’s weightless new farce, as a New York cop hunting a vicious gang leader and a stolen baseball card.

He is self-absorbed, endearingly eccentric and never at a loss for words, especially when logic escapes him.

The character is a more or less sanitized approximation of the brazen goofball Morgan plays in his stand-up act, and as one half of the buddy duo in “Cop Out” — Bruce Willis plays his straight-man partner with a knowing wink — he proves his charisma is no fluke.

Absent “30 Rock” creator Tina Fey, his star still shines. He has the talent to transcend his TV roots, but he’s going to need a sturdier vehicle than “Cop Out” to do it.

Smith, who rarely directs scripts he doesn’t write himself, makes an exception here, and the results are depressingly meager. Seventeen years after “Clerks” made unexpected splashes at the Cannes and Sundance festivals, Smith’s greatest strength remains his gift for playfully profane wordplay. His productions are rarely elegant, but usually effective.

“Cop Out” is neither. In hiring “Axel F” composer Harold Faltermeyer to provide the movie’s original score, Smith was clearly trying to evoke memories of “Beverly Hills Cop” (1984), a superior action comedy that accelerated the rise of another “SNL” vet, Eddie Murphy.

If anything, Smith’s contribution to the genre, with its clumsily shot action sequences and plodding pace, suffers the comparison poorly.

The actors seem to be having fun, at least. Willis has played this kind of character before, most famously in the “Die Hard” movies.

The biggest difference between John McClane and Jimmy Monroe, the world-weary cop he plays here, is the urgency their missions demand. McClane is America’s last line of defense against terrorism. Monroe is tracking down a baseball card valuable enough to finance his daughter’s wedding.

If that sounds like a dubious premise, it is, but “Cop Out” never treats Mark and Robb Cullen’s story as anything more than an excuse for Willis, Morgan and sometime sidekick Seann William Scott, on hand as a smarmy thief, to trade barbs that too often fall flat.

Only Morgan reaches the heights of inspired silliness to which the movie aspires.


Movie Review

Cop Out

Starring Tracy Morgan, Bruce Willis

Written by Mark and Robb Cullen

Directed by Kevin Smith

Rated R

Running time 1 hour 53 minutes

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Staff Report

Staff Report

A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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