In a summer that seems to be lacking in truly great, original comedies, Let’s Be Cops certainly has the potential to break the mould and offer something a little different. With a host of great weapons in its arsenal, including two rising stars in Damon Wayans, Jr. and Jake Johnson, we also see them joined by the talented leading lady Nina Dobrev, and a revered Andy Garcia as the film’s chief antagonist. The premise itself is the stuff of comedy gold – two ne’er-do-wells from Los Angeles dress up like cops and use the power that comes along with the position to do everything from smoking marijuana in public, getting into trendy night clubs, and turn the tables on those who’ve wronged them in the past. But halfway through this film, it simply becomes all too familiar.

Jake Johnson is Ryan, a disgraced former college football star who is living off the wages from a Herpes commercial he starred in a year earlier.  He spends his days drinking, smoking, and playing football with neighbourhood kids. Wayans is Justin, Ryan’s roommate and best friend, who works as a video game developer, but feels stagnated by his thickheaded, misogynist boss. One night, the duo dress up like police officers for a costume party (which is later revealed to be a Masquerade Ball) to celebrate their college reunion. While there, they feel ostracised from their former peers, and walk the streets of Los Angeles, where they are mistaken for real police officers. They run afoul of a group of vicious arms dealers, and find themselves entangled in a criminal conspiracy that could get them both killed.

If Let’s Be Cops can be credited with anything, it’s that this is a great, original concept. The fault doesn’t lie with the idea or the performers, but with the execution. There are some terrific moments in this film that readily provoke hearty laughs, mostly at the expense and/or behest of Johnson’s character, who is slowly-but-surely crafting a nice, comfortable career thanks to turns in projects like Fox’s hit comedy “New Girl” and Joe Swanberg’s acclaimed comedy/drama Drinking Buddies. Comparisons to Bill Murray seem somewhat just, given his wry humour and everyman likability. The problem is that the character is a cut-out of familiar archetypes we’ve seen before. He’s a drunk, self-loathing, unabashed nitwit, and he rarely deviates at all from his hard-partying ways. Now this is a comedy, with a far-flung premise that doesn’t require much of an afterthought, but still, with Johnson you hope for something more finely-tuned. He does his best to pick up the slack, but even he can’t contend with the meagre trajectory his character takes.

Wayans is given the more down-to-Earth, straight-man role, and his character Justin, while still partaking in the frivolity of playing cops here and there, spends the bulk of his time in the movie cleaning up the messes made by Johnson’s Ryan. He’s given some brief moments to shine, but the charm and talent that Wayans possesses is greatly underused. His expertise is best exemplified on the short-lived sitcom Happy Endings, where he was able to draw together (seamlessly) his gentle and comedic prowess. Here he is relegated to a back-up position, when in actuality, he should be taking the lead.

The rest of the cast boasts a pretty impressive list of great comic actors like Rob Riggle (in a rare, somewhat-serious role), Natasha Leggero, Jon Lajoie, and Keegan Michael-Key, and for the most part, they’re given just enough screen time to save the film when the narrative starts to grow a bit sluggish. Key is particularly locked-in as Pupa, a dangerous man who ends up aiding the heroes as they do battle against the Russian mob. Dobrev, as charming as she may be, appears in only a handful of scenes and seems slightly out-of-place in this instance. Her character is a love interest to Wayans, and she services the one-dimensional role as best she can.

Luke Greenfield (whose last film Something Borrowed didn’t sit well with critics) proves that he is a capable director when it comes to comedy, but there’s a charisma missing from this project that is all too conspicuous. The film is almost a fairly coherent spoof of the tried and true “buddy cop” genre, but it falls flat after the joke goes on well into the second half, where the film can’t seem to decide if it’s taking itself too seriously or not. Still, there are enough jokes to help steady the narrative back in the right direction. Unfortunately, it’s just not quite enough to keep you on board.