The movie, which was released on Aug. 13, centers on two friends, Ryan (Johnson) and Justin (Wayans), who wear police uniforms for a costume party and soon discover that they like how they’re received by others when they’re mistaken for real policemen. However, when they get involved with real criminals, trouble ensues.
Johnson and Wayans have starred together on “New Girl” for one season – Wayans Jr. starred in the pilot but left the show for some time after that to return to his ABC sitcom “Happy Endings.” After “Happy” was canceled, his character returned to the show during the third season of “New Girl” and was then named as a series regular this past May.
For “Cops,” which also co-stars actors Rob Riggle, Nina Dobrev of “The Vampire Diaries,” and Keegan-Michael Key of “Key and Peele,” Johnson told the Chicago Tribune that he feels the movie is nostalgic.
“It felt like those movies I watched growing up where two funny people doing jokes get involved in something with a real bad guy,” he said. “They get in way over their heads and now they have to learn the lesson to get out of trouble. I grew up loving those movies.”
However, so far, critics have not embraced “Cops” – the film currently has a score of 31 out of 100 on the review aggregator site Metacritic. Variety critic Joe Leydon predicted that the movie “should generate solid late-summer box office” and that “the target audience will likely be amused,” though he wrote that “the mix of raucous buffoonery and violent mayhem isn’t exactly seamless” and the movie is “sporadically hilarious.”
Meanwhile, Los Angeles Times reviewer Robert Abele called the movie “rote, slipshod, and unfunny” and wrote that there’s “an uninspired heroes-and-villains story… Johnson and Wayans are likable enough. They have a rapport from their work together on the sitcom ‘New Girl’ that they readily take advantage of here. But the movie relies too much on the same comic tension in each scene.”
And Vulture writer Bilge Ebiri wrote that “it seems weird to try to laugh at a movie called Let's Be Cops the same week that an American town burned in response to what appears to be an act of police criminality… Devoid of context, ‘Let’s Be Cops’ is mildly amusing stuff… [but] we won’t remember this movie at all.”