Kevin Smith's ostensible comedy wasn't screened for critics by WW press deadlines, but here's a review in time to keep you from paying to see it:

Cop Out

Cop Out

Sure, I heard that Kevin Smith was kicked off a plane this month for being too obese to fit in his seat, but it wasn't until I saw Cop Out that I knew he had given up.

From its opening scene, Smith's new fiasco reeks with desperation and hopelessness. Tracy Morgan, playing one of two rascally detectives, interrogates a suspect by reciting a series of one-liners from police movies, starting with Serpico and continuing through Robocop. This goes on for at least three minutes (and here it is worth noting that Smith himself edited the movie) while Morgan's partner, Bruce Willis, stands behind the station's one-way glass and generously identifies each bit of dialogue. This approach to comedy—basically, "Let's let the rapid-fire wacky guy do impersonations until he runs out"—is a cry of despair last heard when Robin Williams starred in Father's Day. Movies this terrible only come around once every 13 years.

I have a strange sense of respect for Cop Out: It is not content to be a perfunctory, forgettable cheap comedy. It strives to be singular. Smith has never been terribly adroit with a camera, but here he abandons his actors as well: He brings in forgotten talents like Kevin Pollack, old pals like Jason Lee and underused contenders like Adam Brody and Rashida Jones, and abandons all of them. It's as if he took one look at the script by Robb and Mark Cullen, recognized it was atrocious, and left for lunch. The performers stand in the center of the screen, recite their lines, try out other variations, and (once again, I will draw attention to Smith's editing credit) these scenes drag on for minutes, without the mercy of a cut. I haven't sat through a screening so silent for such long stretches since The White Ribbon.

After an hour, Cop Out begins to resemble some kind of avant-garde film-school experiment or a sensory deprivation tank: a comedy so mirthless for so long that you'll laugh at the first sign of an actual joke, like a drowning man grasping for a life preserver. (Morgan and Seann William Scott as a burglar have a nice rapport when they're yelling at each other, and sometimes you can sense them approaching a joke crabwise—there it is, it's over there, hurry!—missing it, and backtracking to find it again. Their earnest hunt is the movie's only endearing quality.) After another 30 minutes, I began to find the continuing unfunnyness itself absurdly funny, and started laughing aloud at scenes where nothing intentionally humorous was happening. The picture went on for such merciless duration that I had time to consider a revisionist appraisal, wondering in my notes if it had been critically underappreciated 15 minutes earlier.

It hadn't.

Cop Out won't do any damage to the rising trajectory of Morgan (and Willis has become some kind of impenetrable statue, like Soviet architecture), but a debacle of this magnitude could finally, mercifully kill Smith's directing career. Somebody, please get this man help. R.

Opens Friday at Century 16 Cedar Hills Crossing, Century Eastport 16, Cinema 99 Stadium 11, CineMagic Theatre, Cinemas Bridgeport Village Stadium 18 IMAX, Cinetopia, City Center Stadium 12, Cornelius 9 Cinemas, Division Street Stadium 13, Evergreen Parkway Stadium 13, Hilltop 9 Cinema, Lloyd Center Stadium 10 Cinema, Lloyd Mall 8 Cinema, Movies On TV Stadium 16, Oak Grove 8 Cinemas, Pioneer Place Stadium 6, Sandy Cinemas, Sherwood Stadium 10, Tigard 11 Cinemas, Wilsonville Stadium 9 Cinema.