A few weeks ago I had to explain define the word "fratboy" to someone who didn't grow up in America. It seems like that would be easy to do, but it turns out that fratboys are like hipsters or pornography: you just know them when you see them. I ended up saying that the essential factor that makes someone a “fratboy” is a certain sense of entitlement. All the classic fratboy traits – reckless hedonism, arrogance, callousness, lack of consideration for others – all stem from the fact that they are a group of people that think they deserve more than other people. The same way that a person can like hipster stuff but not be a hipster if they don't act like a condescending know it all, someone can be in a frat and not be a fratboy as long as they don’t act like an entitled jerk.
Let's Be Cops is a recent comedy that's built on a sense of entitlement, and it is obnoxious. The plot is kicked into gear when two guys in their early 30s named Ryan and Justin show up to their college reunion party – which is a masquerade ball for some reason? – in cop uniforms. Both of them had been feeling depressed because none of their dreams had panned out like they thought they would, and being thrown into a room with their peers who have actually achieved something brought them even lower. However, as the two of them walk home in their cop outfits they notice that suddenly everyone treats them with deference. That ego boost proves addictive, and so they decide to continue to dress up - even going so far as buying a used cop car on Ebay and tricking it out so it looks legit.
I’ve seen enough buddy cop comedies that I can safely say that a watchable buddy comedy could be made using that premise. There are a lot of buddy cop comedies - this year alone I've reviewed 22 Jump Street, Wrong Cops and Ride Along without even going out of my way to see them – and while they weren’t always great, they were generally decent enough, with enough good jokes to offset their often weak premises. However, there's a real difference between those movies and Let's Be Cops: in those watchable movies the joke is on the cops as much as it is on anyone else. The cops are idiots in Jump Street, they are weirdos in Wrong Cops, and they are wannabes in Ride Along. In contrast, the joke in Let's Be Cops is on the people that Ryan and Justin are illegally hassling with their fake credentials.
We’re supposed to like Ryan and Justin. We’re supposed to think that these cool bros deserve to have their dreams come true. If they need to waterboard a gang member named Pupa to do that, well, that’s ok, right? I mean, they don’t know how to waterboard someone correctly so it’s just a big wacky mix up, you know? And besides, Pupa deserved it - he speaks Spanish in a funny accent and has facial tattoos. No harm no foul, yo.
And when they barge into a lady’s house so they can stake out a warehouse across the street? That’s totally fine, because she’s a man-hungry slut who wants to hit on them, and that’s ridiculous, therefore it is funny. If the fake cops want to condescend her directly to her own face in her own home it’s okay because they have real business they need to pretend to take care of and she’s just being silly.
While we’re speaking of ladies: Justin definitely deserves to get the girl of his dreams. If he sets up a date with her under false pretenses and later endangers her life by promising to protect her when he knows he can’t, well, that’s ok as long as he feels kind of bad about it, right? It’s not rape-y to manipulate someone into having sex with you by giving them a fake name, and wearing a fake uniform, and creating a fake life for them to envy, right? Because they definitely consented to having sex with you, regardless of who that “you” really is.
Let’s leave aside how thin this plot is. Yes, of course in real life they would be busted immediately if they did this, and they would go to jail for committing a federal crime instead of getting ensnared in a big case and getting a lot of praise for taking down a gun smuggler. What really sinks Let’s Be Cops is not it’s implausibility – no, the most rotten part of the movie is what’s plausible about it. I believe that fratboys like Ryan and Justin would get to a point in their lives where they were mad that they didn’t get the things that were “owed” to them, so they set out to take them by hook or by crook. But that’s not funny – that’s fucking gross.
Winner: The Cat