Often circumstance alters critical perspective. I find myself acknowledging the obvious; I do not live in a void where I am free to navel gaze myopically. So please accept this critical mash-up for what it aspires to be.
Let’s Be Cops features two performers – Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. with a history together. We’ve seen them on the hit television series The New Girl. (I say “we” in the collective sense because I’ve only watched one-full episode of the show during its run, and my memories from that experience are strictly limited to an appreciation of the low-key comic brilliance of Prince. I do recall the fellas occasionally passing before the screen, but they failed to make much of an impression. Sorry.)
And now, it seems, I’m going to drift away from their work in Let’s Be Cops, to sadly spotlight the death of Robin Williams. I waited to collect my thoughts about Williams before posting, a strange decision for anyone in the blogesphere, but one I tend to make from time to time. What’s the point of being the first or the loudest voice. I would rather shoot for a degree of insight.
Williams was a comic genius. Despite his sterling work as a performer on screens large and small, the truest home for his talent was certainly the stage, where his manic energy sucked us all into the free-flowing omniverse that was his mind with ideas ricocheting at supersonic speeds, bashing into one another, stopping on a dime to lodge in our puny brains, which were overloaded with light and sight and sounds the likes of which we had never experienced before. He dazzled us as well though, first and most memorably for me, on the small screen as Mork from Ork. Those of us old enough to recall the character will reminisce over that initial sighting on Happy Days, which transfixed us (and the studio executives always on the hunt for the next big thing). We had to see more of that strange guy with the shocking blaze of hair and the warped speed delivery of zingers and antic physical plays. He and his words sang and danced with dizzyingly spastic grace. This was comic rhythm like we had never seen or heard before.
Johnson and Wayans, on a lark, choose to impersonate police officers, but Williams had no choice. The genius in his DNA compelled him. There was no a-ha moment at the crossroads for such a comedic fiend; watching him surrendering to the urge reminds me of what all those Marvel comic books were trying to capture, the first time a mutant’s powers manifest themselves – the sensation of a being consumed, the uncontrollable fear of what’s happening and then a dawning awareness, on the edge of consciousness, the possibility of reining it in.
In Let’s Be Cops, it is obvious now that Johnson and Wayans, to a certain extent, are pretending to not only be cops, but also putting us on when it comes to humor. This Luke Greenfield movie is routine buddy banter that might as well come with a laugh track. They are having fun acting out the gags, but this “act” doesn’t require them to live and breathe in that moment as “actors” or “characters.” There is no high wire to the “act,” nothing at risk for these stone(d)-cold buddies – who needs a net when you’re already grounded? Maybe that’s what separates the real comic dervishes from the pretenders, and makes the greats, such tragic figures, capable of crossing and/or blurring the lines between comedy and drama. They have this power, to express themselves, all of themselves in any given moment and they can’t completely turn it off. It is not an act, and while it starts off as being funny; before long, it evolves, right before our eyes, into something that we and they can’t understand.
It’s not fair, I know, to compare Let’s Be Cops, or its stars to someone like Robin Williams, but that’s only a problem if you stop at that point. What Robin Williams, and others like him, those who tap into and embrace that higher, sometimes darker power of theirs, inspires audiences to do is to look for performers, artists who challenge us, by grabbing hold of us and dancing us to the edge of sanity and sense and sensibility, showing us what its like to be transcendent and transgressive.
That’s not something you can fake. (tt stern-enzi)