Movies, Now and Then: Kevin Smith’s “Cop Out” and “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” Play Games with the Police Genre


Kevin Smith brings Tracy Morgan and Bruce Willis together for a fresh new take on the buddy cop comedy. (Warner Bros./MCT)

Published: March 4, 2010

Cop Out (2010)

Kevin Smith’s buddy cop comedy stars Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan as partners busting a drug operation while looking for Willis’s stolen baseball card, which he wants to sell to pay for his daughter’s wedding. If that sentence runs too long for anybody, then they should know that the story does not stop there. It does not become a confusing story, but it does seem to have too many events going on at once. One minute may have a bad sketch involving a ridiculously underage carjacker, and another may have a torture scene better suited to a Martin Scorsese movie. A lot of these routines are stitched together with only some to little cohesion.

The movie does have a few surprises, chiefly the fact that Morgan is the funniest of its lead actors. Anyone who has watched him knows he can either be funny or insufferable, even in his solid performances on “30 Rock.” The same applies in this movie, where his routines range from humorous to seriously overlong. However, he does provide a few sympathetic moments through his character’s suspicion regarding his wife’s free time (a subplot among others that disappear for lengthy periods of time).

The other real surprise of this movie is the fact that Willis and Morgan’s characters are longtime partners and not the usual unlikely pair thrown together for a special case. As the opening scene so carefully explains, they have worked together for nine years, so they know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. This saves the already lengthy movie from spending a lot of time on exposition. Unfortunately, this long partnership may have rubbed off on Willis, who seems tired and is merely reciting his lines whenever he is alone or without Morgan.

His scenes with Morgan are where he finds his vigor and the movie finds most of its real laughs. They act off each other quite well, though not perfectly (unexpectedly, Willis takes the opening routine too far instead of Morgan). Their banter is moderately forgettable, their energy together is enjoyable and the aspect of this movie that makes it worth renting.

If you like this one, then try…

Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)

The mismatched partners are a common staple in the police genre, and no pair provides a greater contrast than Bob Hoskins and the title character of Robert Zemeckis’ comedy classic. Hoskins’ Eddie Valiant is the drunk, aloof gumshoe we expect from a 1940s mystery, and Roger is a cartoon bunny in a world where humans and animated characters share the third dimension. The expected combination of serious and zany makes this duo at least as lively as Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan in “Cop Out,” but the fact that this is a cartoon believably interacting with a human is what makes it memorable (that and the fact that Hoskins gives a much better performance than Willis)

Most people rightfully regard “Roger Rabbit” as a marvelous special effects showcase, but its fantasy premise lovingly spoofs detective movies in addition to referencing cartoons. Jessica Rabbit is cinema’s most exaggeratedly sexy femme fatale, and the secret trauma from Valiant’s past is undeniably silly while maintaining a necessary sadness. These and other jests draw appreciative laughs while contributing details to the overall story. The meshing of two distinct film genres makes “Roger Rabbit” a comedy that any film fan will enjoy.