Kevin Smith has become infamous lately, as much for what enters his mouth as what seeps out. And his latest feeble film effort suggests too many Cheetos have gone to his head and blocked an artery. Before he got "too fat to fly," Smith spent lots of the last decade patrolling the talk-show circuit becoming America's favorite chubby film geek, a cinema autodidact nearly as obsessive as Quentin Tarantino. The only difference is that instead of film-school fave raves like Kurosawa, Scorsese or Howard Hawks, Smith's real heroes are middlebrow talents like John Hughes, Richard Donner and Martin Brest.
With Cop Out, the first work-for-hire assignment based on a script he didn't write, Smith's determined to deliver an homage to the lost art of Reagan-era buddy-cop action comedies that once packed the multiplexes, but instead of Riggs and Murtaugh he's saddled with the chemistry-challenged duo of Tracy Morgan and Bruce Willis.
These mismatched partners and BFFs are shoehorned into a perfunctory plot about vicious Mexican drug gangs gone wild. The rote shoot-outs bookend a couple random subplots, including one where Morgan thinks his wife (Rashida Jones) is cheating on him, and one about Willis's effort to recover a super-valuable baseball card to fund his daughter's wedding.
Such stuff is recycled post-consumer product lifted from other flicks, right down to the scene where the tough-as-nails captain chews his boys out for being total screw-ups. Willis is essentially playing Willis, but that's better than Morgan's shouting, temper-tantrum-throwing wild man act, which works in small doses but is dreadful in a full-length feature. Cop Out is, in fact, so clunky, random and pandering, it feels like one of the ridiculous movies Morgan's character might star in on 30 Rock, but without witty Tina Fey writing the dialogue. Speaking of dialogue, it's bad here, though the tubby director tosses in a few movie references and allusions to raunchy acts, as if to keep himself interested. The closest he comes to "style" is using the dude who scored Beverly Hills Cop for the bouncy, synth-driven throwback soundtrack.